Wimbledon stage set for returning hero Murray
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - When Andy Murray walks into Wimbledon on Monday to begin what he hopes will be the successful defense of his title he may be feeling a little lighter than usual at this time of year.
Ever since assuming the role of Britain's flag bearer at the All England Club from perennial semi-finalist Tim Henman, Murray has shouldered the huge weight of expectation heaped on him by a nation desperate to celebrate a men's singles champion.
He finally delivered last year, beating Novak Djokovic on an unforgettable sunny afternoon on Centre Court, at a stroke wiping away decades of mediocrity and hurt that followed Fred Perry's 1936 title run in south west London.
Things have not gone exactly to plan in the intervening 12 months, however, with injuries, poor form and changes to his coaching personnel raising serious questions about his ability to match last year's heroics.
Djokovic, without a grand slam title since the Australian Open in 2013, will be leading the cast of players hoping to take advantage of any Murray weakness, while world No.1 Rafa Nadal has a point to prove after two successive Wimbledon shockers.
Then there is Swiss maestro Roger Federer who despite being the wrong side of 30, shows no sign of giving up on an 18th grand slam title, especially at a place he has turned into his own back garden down the years.
A gathering band of young guns could also prove troublesome but, according to former champion John McEnroe, at least the pressure on Murray will not be as suffocating as usual.
"The fact that he's done it takes a lot of pressure off him. That should be understood," the American, who will be offering his pearls of wisdom to ESPN viewers, said in a conference call ahead of the championships. Continued...