Best of British
It was some year for British tennis and our Andy Schooler reflects on the highlights and the less-publicised success.
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Sport's history books will forever show that 2012 was the year of a wonderfully exciting Olympic Games in London, one at which Team GB enjoyed success unprecedented in modern times.
It should not be forgotten, however, that is was also some year for British tennis.
Here, our Andy Schooler reflects on the events that turned the country's tennis reputation around.
If ever there was a tournament which helped create the 'British losers' reputation it is Wimbledon. I grew up in a time when Jeremy Bates reaching the fourth round was a reason for national celebration. Tim Henman and Andy Murray took things to another level but a string of semi-final defeats meant the name of a certain Bunny Austin remained very much on a British tennis fan's lips. However, you no longer have to go back to Austin and 1938 to find the host nation's last men's singles finalist for Murray's last-four victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was an historic moment. Sadly Murray failed in his bid to claim the title - Roger Federer proving too good two days later - but one significant hurdle had been overcome.
If Murray narrowly failing to become Britain's first Wimbledon men's singles champion in 76 years was not enough to convince you that something special was happening in the British game, then surely Jonny Marray's remarkable doubles success at the All England Club did. At the age of 31 and needing a wild card just to play in the tournament, Marray and partner Freddie Nielsen won a string of five-set thrillers before repeating the trick in a final which finished under the Centre Court roof at gone 9pm. It was fairytale stuff - and more was to follow.
With the courts repaired in double-quick time, the world's best returned to Wimbledon just three weeks later for the Olympics and what a Games it was to be for British tennis. Murray surged to the singles gold, defeating the world's top two, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, in the last two rounds. His demolition of Federer for the loss of just seven games was simply majestic and will be pinpointed in the future as the moment Murray really made the breakthrough. Certainly it seems to have instilled the true belief that the Scot can beat the best at the highest level - more on that shortly. Soon after having the medal placed around his neck, Murray returned to court with Laura Robson for the final of the mixed doubles, the duo adding a silver to the Team GB tally.
Grand Slam glory
Back in 2010, Roger Federer famously quipped that it had been 150,000 years since Great Britain last had a male Grand Slam singles champion. But, thanks to Andy Murray, the British game is a laughing stock no more. Heading to New York, many had felt that Murray's Olympic success had laid the foundation for US Open glory but delivering it was never going to be easy. The final summed that up. A tight contest throughout, Murray eked out a two-set lead only for Novak Djokovic to come storming back and force a decider. A younger, less mature Murray may have folded at that point but with Olympic gold in his locker and one of the game's greats, Ivan Lendl, in his box, Murray refocused, lifted his game again and his Serbian foe could not respond. 150,000 years of hurt - well, OK, 76 - were over and the shadow of Fred Perry looming over British tennis had finally disappeared.
Women on the march
Murray's triumph in New York in September was certainly the pinnacle of the British tennis year but it appeared to have a knock-on effect as the season continued, particularly on the WTA circuit where Laura Robson and Heather Watson quickly announced their desire to join Murray at the top table. First Robson became Britain's first WTA singles finalist since Jo Durie in 1990 by reaching the final in Guangzhou. And just weeks later it was Watson's turn to write a slice of history, trumping Robson's effort by becoming GB's first WTA singles champion in 24 years in Osaka. Watson ended the season inside the world's top 50 and the duo look almost certain to climb higher in 2013.
All part of the team
While Jonny Marray grabbed the doubles headlines, it is worth pointing out that Britain finished the year with no fewer than seven men inside the ATP's top 100 for the format. The Davis Cup pairing of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins won two ATP titles in 2012, while Dominic Inglot clinched his maiden success at ATP level. In addition, Ken Skupski and Jamie Delgado reached two finals and Jamie Murray one.
Of course, the current generation in tennis never lasts too long so it's key to have a production line of talent. Thankfully 2012 showed that the junior ranks include plenty of potential. Liam Broady, Josh Ward-Hibbert and Kyle Edmund both tasted junior Grand Slam doubles success (and finished ranked in the junior top 25), while Broady also finished runner-up in the singles at the US Open. On the girls' side, GB reaching the final of World Junior Tennis - a tournament for players aged 14 and under - was a notable achievement. Jazzi Plews, Gabriella Taylor and Maia Lumsden are the team members to watch out for in the coming years.
An off-court high polished off the year with the ATP announcing that its World Tour Finals would be staying at London's O2 Arena until 2015. 'Inspire a generation' became a tagline of 2012 and what better way to do so than by having the best players in the world performing at an outstanding venue for three more years?