Cry God for Andy, Scotland, and St Andrew!
Not since 1938 has a Briton reached the men’s singles final at Wimbledon. And not since 1936 has one won it. No doubt if Andy Murray triumphs today, it will be hailed a Scottish victory, which Alex Salmond will then appropriate to the armoury of his battle for independence (which also includes Glasgow hosting the Commonweath Games and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014, not forgetting Sir Sean Connery and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn). There’s nothing like national pride to boost nationalist fervour.
Should Murray lose, of course, it is likely to be portrayed as yet another British defeat to be added to the long and sorry decades of national deflation and disappointment, which Mr Salmond will no doubt put down to the London-centric myopia of Wimbledon. The body language in the Royal Box between Scotland’s First Minister and the UK’s Prime Minister will be interesting to watch.
But it would be fitting – not to say rather neat – for Murray to win Wimbledon in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, for Virginia Wade won it for Britain in 1977, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Yes, Jonathan Marray won the men's doubles final yesterday (the first for 76 years). But, well, it’s not quite the same national glory when half the team is Danish. Follow up the glorious Diamond celebrations with a Wimbledon victory in the men’s singles, and follow that with a haul of Gold medals for team GB at the British Olympics, and David Cameron might be able to bask in a little reflected glory.
We’ve heard nothing from Cardinal Keith O’Brien: he may very well be clutching his Rosary Beads today, but the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu has used his Pulpit-in-the-Sun to compose a prayer for the occasion:
Loving God we are so filled with hope by the Wimbledon final today! Guide Andy Murray in the choices that come to him with every ball. Make us all the best that we can be, by your Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, to the glory of God our Father. Amen.That's nice.
Of course, such a prayer would be utterly otiose if Murray were rubbish at tennis. One must be a very fine player indeed to reach a Wimbledon final, and that is all that counts. But when God-given gifts of sporting prowess, mental capacity and physical endurance are complemented by spiritual faith, great things are possible – even against the Goliath of tennis Roger Federer.
As the nation holds its collective breath – that is, the whole United Kingdom – the Scot will point to the heavens muttering his private prayers in unison with his fellow countrymen. But the English, Welsh and Northern Irish of all faiths and none will also be uttering incantations of hope. We will feel his pride, wonder at his flourish, and clench our teeth as he struggles and grimaces for every point.
We long to celebrate in delirium, to lift us out of the economic morass into which we are sinking. Just for today, Andy Murray is the heart of the nation. May God be with him.