British sportsman of 2013

  • Last Updated: December 23 2013, 18:02 GMT

Our British sportsman of the year is Andy Murray, who became Britain's first Wimbledon champion since 1936.

Andy Murray: A worthy champion
Andy Murray: A worthy champion

When Andy Murray wrapped his arms around the famous gold trophy after winning the men's singles title at Wimbledon in July he did more than win a tennis tournament.

He lifted a cloud of history which had engulfed British tennis for 77 years.

Not since Fred Perry, in his quaint long trousers, had won Wimbledon in 1936, the year Edward VIII succeeded George V before famously abdicating, had a British man won the world's most prestigious singles event.

In recent years Perry's bronze statue had sat in front of the famous ivy at the All England Club, a reminder that the weight of expectation was getting heavier and heavier as each year passed.

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Murray cut through all that. He backed the physical fitness honed by a dedicated training team and the mental toughness supplied by new coach Ivan Lendl, who as an eight-time grand slam winner knew something about the psychology required to win tennis majors, and he fronted up history to play with a freedom and excellence which was a wonder to behold.

True, he benefited from the early exits of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer but in sport you have to seize whatever advantage is given.

He defeated Benjamin Becker, Lu Yen-hsun, Tommy Robredo, Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets before calling on all his will and tenacity to come from two sets down to beat Fernando Verdasco in the quarter final. Big serving Jerzy Janowicz was brushed aside in four sets in the semi, to set up another final encounter against Serbia's Novak Djokovic.

The clinical manner in which Murray dealt with Djokovic in a 6-4 7-5 6-4 victory said much about his increasing maturity. No, the match did not scale the tennis heights but it was the sight of Murray kissing the trophy which tennis fans and the wider nation celebrated.

And after the pomp and triumph of the London Olympics the year before, in which Murray won a gold medal, 2013 had its vintage moment.

Actually, it was just the greatest of a whole rack of vintage moments.

In fact, some might argue Chris Froome's ride to the Champs Elysees in the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, which included some of the finest mountain riding ever seen in the French Alps, was the pinnacle of sporting courage and achievement, especially as he did so with the doubts and questions following the confessions of Lance Armstrong trailing in his wake.

Others might vote for Mo Farah, who followed up his Olympic double success by regaining his 5,000m world title and adding the 10,000m world title for good measure. It is difficult to argue with such sublime domination.

Carl Froch also had a case as world super middleweight champion and so did Welshman Leigh Halfpenny whose superlative full-back play and precision kicking were instrumental in the British & Irish Lions prevailing in Australia.

Halfpenny was voted man of the series and he epitomised the meticulous preparation and adventurous rugby which saw the Lions not just win a captivating series but also re-energise what was becoming a stale touring concept.

Elsewhere, 18-time champion jockey Tony McCoy rode his 4,000th winner, Sir Ben Ainslie was instrumental in helping Team USA fight back for a thrilling America's Cup win over Team New Zealand, while Ian Bell hit centuries in three Tests as England won their summer Ashes assignment with Australia.

Tai Woffinden deserves a mention, too, after becoming the first Briton to win speedway's world title since 2000, while Yorkshireman Tom Sykes was a deserving winner of the World Superbike crown.

And who could forget Justin Rose, pointing to the sky in honour of his late dad and former coach Ken after winning the US Open to record the first Major victory of his career.

That was a special moment for all those who remember Rose as a precocious and fun-loving teenager coming fourth as leading amateur in the 1998 Open at Royal Birkdale before immediately turning professional and struggling with the demands of the big boys' game.

But it was not as special as the events on July 7, 2013, which saw Murray liberate the hopes and expectations of sports lovers up and down the land and let the page of history turn on dear old Fred Perry.

That is why Murray is the worthiest sportsman of the year.

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