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Page last updated at 21:43 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 22:43 UK

Cool on Britannia

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

British fan Vanessa gets into the spirit at Wimbledon
Vanessa and Anthony fly the flag on Henman Hill but are in a minority
When Henmania whimpered its final "Come on Tim" last year did it sound the death knell for patriotic fever at Wimbledon?

In 15 Wimbledon appearances, Tim Henman inflicted bitten nails, sore throats and dizzy spells on his army of Henmaniacs.

But Murraymania, inspired by Britain's world number 11 Andy Murray, has been a bit of a slow starter.

Along with Murray, there were nine Britons in action in the first two days of the championships but hardly a painted face, union jack, Saltire or ill-advised red, white and blue ensemble in sight.

"Without Tim playing the atmosphere is much flatter," says Wimbledon stalwart Ross from Guildford.

"This is my 19th year here and Wimbledon is normally so alive and vibrant but there is just no buzz this year."

Henman, who reached the semi-finals four times, certainly provided plenty of drama thanks to his five-set thrillers, pesky double-faults and the ill-timed rain in 2001.

In his third appearance at the championships, Murray is yet to woo Wimbledon in the same way.

606: DEBATE
GZR

And the Scot did not help his cause in the build-up to the tournament two years ago when he joked he wanted "anyone but England" to win the World Cup.

"Andy is proud of being Scottish, and rightly so," says Lorna, who travelled down from Forfar to join the queue.

"But if British people are patriotic they'll get behind him. Andy has the emotion to win their support - he just needs to show it."

There were glimmers of a growing mutual affection when Murray cleared the first hurdle with an entertaining victory over Fabrice Santoro on Tuesday.

He smiled, and Centre Court gave him a standing ovation while Henman Hill broke into solid applause.

"This is Murray Mount now, not Henman Hill," smiled Glasgow teenagers Daniel, Chris, Benji and Callum, who sat decked out in tam-o-shanter, a Loch Ness Hat and a kilt.

"Andy is the top man. He's going to go on and be better than Henman - he's going to win it."

Murray might need to show a bit more passion on the grass, but courtside it is now not so easy for British fans to show their true colours.

On the back of each ticket, The All England Club lists 'large flags, banners, rattles, klaxons and oversized hats' as prohibited items.

If patriotic punters want to show their fervour then they have to get inventive.

"We disguised our flags as belts and headscarves," reveals Cathy from Cheltenham, sitting proudly on her large union jack.

It's amazing how much the crowd can lift you

Britain's Chris Eaton

"There's definitely a crackdown on being able to bring things in and expressing your patriotism and that does dampen the atmosphere."

But the appeal of Wimbledon - the great British institution, home of strawberries and cream and the "best" Grand Slam, - remains undimmed.

On Monday, 39,035 people came through the gates - 6,000 more than on the first day last year.

By midday on Tuesday the queue of fans waiting for ground tickets had reached 9,000, leaving those at the back unlikely to get in before 5pm.

Not that they minded.

"We came all the way to Wimbledon from Paris," say Max and Mathieu from the back of the line.

Chris Eaton
Eaton did his utmost to warm the temperature of British fans
"We've been to Roland Garros lots of times but we wanted to come to Wimbledon because it's such a massive tournament. The weather is nice, it's a nice place to wait, so we'll stick it out."

British fans have a chance to up their game, fly the flags (small only) and slap on the face paint with four home-grown players still left in the singles draw.

Murray, Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong and Chris Eaton are all through to the second round, and if they are to go further they could probably use a little help.

"When you first walk out onto court at Wimbledon and you hear all the shouting, you can't do anything but give your all," said Eaton, who won on his Wimbledon debut after coming through qualifying.

"It's amazing how much the crowd can lift you, but when you play at Wimbledon - it's Wimbledon."

And that's with or without Tim Henman.


see also
Murray gets past tricky Santoro
24 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Briton Eaton continues progress
24 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Wimbledon day two photos
24 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Henman ready for new chapter
18 Jun 08 |  Tennis


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