Fri, Jul 03, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Standing room only as Murray-mania takes hold

REUTERS AND AFP , LONDON

It was standing room only on Wimbledon’s Henman Hill as thousands of fans gathered to watch Britain’s Andy Murray waltz past Juan Carlos Ferrero on Wednesday to book his place in the semi-finals.

The Murray-mania started early in the day, as those who pitched up first thing to secure a spot on the grassy knoll overlooking Court One were treated to highlights of the 22-year-old’s marathon Monday night fourth round match.

The hill was given its nickname in fond tribute to Tim Henman — the player Britain had hoped would end a drought at Wimbledon which has not seen a home-grown men’s singles winner since Fred Perry in 1936 — but some have now begun to call Murray Mound.

Murray has received messages of encouragement from Queen Elizabeth, former James Bond actor and fellow Scot Sean Connery and was cheered on by Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet and her Hollywood director husband Sam Mendes from the royal box on Wednesday.

Music mogul Simon Fuller, the inspiration behind the Spice Girls, and lyricist Sir Tim Rice were also in the box.

Adding a touch more glamor to the proceedings, Murray’s old school pal Katharine Brown — Miss Scotland — was also in the crowd roaring him on.

On Henman Hill several rows of people braved the pain of sitting on the scorching hot pavement at the bottom of the hill in a bid to catch a glimpse of the match on the giant television screen.

Comments such as “we’re never going to find a spot” and “I told you it would be packed” could be heard from people trudging past, desperately scanning the crowds for even the smallest gap.

Girls with “I love Murray” written on their faces sheltered under umbrellas in the searing afternoon heat and people fanned themselves with programs in an attempt to keep cool.

The crowd, dotted with Union Jack hats and flags, cheered at every point Murray won, erupting into rapturous applause he broke his opponent to take the first set.

“We were standing on our tip toes,” said Natasha Birnie, a 26-year-old teacher from London. “It is a fantastic atmosphere, very exciting.”

As Murray won the second set the shouts of “come on Andy” grew louder and at match point in the third, a Mexican wave rippled through the cheering crowd.

It was not long before he answered their call and as Ferrero hit a forehand long to hand Murray a place in his first Wimbledon semi-final, the crowd exploded.

Jumping up and down, they chanted “Murray, Murray” with huge grins on their faces.

“It is brilliant, you can’t beat it,” said Debbie Grantham from Canterbury in the South East of England. “I watched the whole match here, everybody was cheering.”

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