Court queen Virginia Wade wants to see new king take her crown
Virginia Wade’s reign as the last British player to win a singles title at Wimbledon has lasted for 35 years and she would be happy to see that end this afternoon.
No home player had reached a singles final at the All England Club since Wade’s 1977 triumph over Betty Stove, but that changed when Andy Murray won his semi-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Today the 25-year-old Scot will take on six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, and Wade cannot think of a more perfect final. Speaking about about the possible loss of her record, she said: “It’s about time.
“But I think it’s a win-win situation. If Roger wins, he’s everybody’s hero; if Andy wins, it’s phenomenal. The longer a barrier exists, the more difficult it is to break it down.
“If Andy wins then I think the whole of British sport will get a lift. I think we dwell way too much on the negative in this country.”
Wade had previously won the US Open in 1968 and the Australian Open in 1972, but it was not until she was 32 that she won her home grand slam.
Murray is yet to win one, losing his previous three grand slam finals, two of them to Federer.
Wade’s advice to the Scot is simple: “You’re always going to be nervous, so you’ve just not got to be afraid that you’re nervous and deal with it.”
Murray has had to carry the hopes of British tennis on his shoulders alone since the retirement of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski five years ago.
Wade admitted having Sue Barker also in the semi-finals in 1977 helped to take the pressure off her, although it is a part of the day she very much remembers.
The 66-year-old said: “It’s something that comes up all the time and I remember it because it’s obviously one of the most important days of my life. We had a huge amount of pressure. The year I won, Sue Barker was sharing the pressure, so that made life so much easier. I tried not to take too much notice of it all.
“You have to do what you have to do, and you do it in the most efficient way you can. I guess the pressure has got more intense, but all the players have big teams around them these days.”
Murray has managed to stay on an impressively even keel so far emotionally, but Wade feels Federer goes into the final in even better mental shape.
She said: “Apart from the semi-final of the French Open, where I felt he went in on a bit of a wing and a prayer [against Novak Djokovic], I think Roger’s been unbelievably focused all year, maybe a touch more than Andy.
“Andy’s had those patches where his back was worrying him, where he was getting concerned about everything. But I think this is the best mental preparation Roger has put in in years.
“He’s realised he can’t win just by standing on the court and how brilliant he is. If you have a plan and you’re going out and performing to that day in and day out, that gives you confidence.
“I think the mental side is a big factor. If Andy’s able to play one point at a time and stay on the court with Roger, I think that’s the best that’s going to happen. You can’t blame yourself if you’ve done 100 per cent and things don’t work out.
“There’s a lot riding on it for Roger, too. He’s won six, Pete Sampras won seven, and he’s going for number one in the rankings. You don’t get the good cards every single time you play.”
The feeling this could be Murray’s year has been exacerbated by a royal omen. Wade was presented with the Venus Rosewater Dish by the Queen on her Silver Jubilee, and Murray will be hoping to provide some home sporting success in the year the monarch celebrates her Diamond Jubilee.
“It was definitely a motivating factor for me,” added Wade. “In today’s world, I’m not sure it’s quite as relevant, but maybe it is.”
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Monday 20 May 2013
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