Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 8/3/12

Roger Federer is probably the most beloved champion the sport of tennis has ever had. Granted, like any athlete, he has his haters, but by and large the Federer fans are loud and numerous. And it’s not without reason. Regardless of what anyone personally thinks of him, Federer has been a great ambassador for this sport and has literally earned himself millions of fans.

Which is how sport was meant to be. Some champions are hated, but the vast majority of times great champions are loved by most and respected by all. But Federer is loved even more than that. No matter where he goes, no matter where Federer competes, the crowd is almost always behind him. The only time I have ever seen him compete against a hostile crowd was when Switzerland traveled to Australia in Davis Cup last year. And that fact might be one of the saddest things in tennis in recent memory. Because there should have been one other match where the crowd was strongly against him.

3 weeks ago, Federer met Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final. Murrray, from Scotland, became the first British man to reach the Wimbledon final since 1938. No Brit has won it (or any other Slam) since Fred Perry in 1936. Britain has been starved for tennis success since the great Fred Perry retired. The country rallied behind Tim Henman, a great competitor who was just not talented enough to get himself over the top. And after Henman retired, they received Murray. Murray has incredible talent. He is one of the best tactical tennis players out there. And, even early in his career, he showed that he could beat the great Roger Federer, the man who had so thoroughly dominated the Slams for years.

Which is why it was absolutely unforgivable how the Centre Court crowd treated that match. I semi-seriously asked before the match on Twitter if anyone thought the crowd would be even minutely pro-Fed. I received an emphatic, “Of course not!” This was a Brit. In the Wimbledon final. It hadn’t happened for three-quarters of a century. This was a country that had been praying for Murray’s success since he made his professional debut. This was the answer to their prayers. This was the country’s chance to end one of the most painful droughts in sports.

And yet, shockingly, the crowd was fairly neutral. Oh, they were ecstatic when Murray won the first set. But they were just as ecstatic when Federer won the second. And when he won the third. Federer was their great champion. And they loved seeing him win, no matter who he was playing against. Towards the end of the fourth set, when Federer was coming closer and closer to winning the match, the crowd realized their danger. They realized what a Murray loss would mean. They attempted to rally behind their compatriot who they had so happily cheered against for over 2 sets. Every shot that the camera showed for Henman Hill (or Murray Mound, if you prefer) showed a decidedly pro-British crowd that celebrated every Murray success. But inside the retractable roof of Centre Court itself things were decidedly neutral and slightly pro-Fed.

Now, 3 weeks later, Centre Court finds itself in a similar situation. Great Britain has not won an Olympic Gold Medal in tennis since 1920. They have not won a men’s singles gold since the London Olympics in 1908. Andy Murray will once again face Roger Federer. Murray matches up well against Federer. That much has been obvious in all of their matches. Murray no longer leads the career head-to-head as that Wimbledon final tied the series at 8-8. But this is a man that Murray knows he can beat.

Murray was devastated after his Wimbledon final loss. In his post-match interview, e cried for himself, for his country, and even for his fans on Centre Court-those who didn’t back him strongly during the match. But now he has a second chance. It’s for his country, for something just as historic, and for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn a Gold Medal on Centre Court’s hallowed grass. Murray has his chance for redemption. A win here would mean almost as much to him and his country as a Grand Slam title would. And the Centre Court crowd once again has a chance to cheer for British history. But will they take it? Or will they once again back their beloved Swiss champion?

Make sure to check out all of our continuing coverage during the Games here at TSHQ by following this link.


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