Great Britain ends 76 years of tennis pain


Great Britain ends 76 years of tennis pain

From Comcast SportsNetLONDON (AP) -- After reveling in a rousing Olympic summer of sporting success, Britain awoke Tuesday to another major milestone: Finally, after 76 years of waiting, the country has a male Grand Slam tennis champion.Andy Murray's five-set victory over Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final Monday provided the perfect bookend to a summer in which a British rider won the Tour de France and British athletes scooped heaps of medals at the hugely successful London Olympics and Paralympics.After losing in four previous Grand Slam finals, Murray outlasted defending champion Djokovic 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 after nearly five hours to become the first British man to win a Slam since Fred Perry captured the Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships in 1936.At last, for Britain, the "Fred Perry curse" has been broken -- although until Murray wins Wimbledon, it won't be fully put to rest."Thank God that's over. Thank God we can let Fred Perry lie easy. Thank God for Andy Murray," wrote the Guardian newspaper website.Fittingly, Murray's breakthrough came in a year when Britain has enjoyed its greatest sports summer of a generation -- coinciding with national celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II's "Diamond Jubilee" of 60 years on the throne.In a message posted on Twitter, Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "delighted Andy Murray is continuing a golden summer of sport by winning the U.S. Open. A truly great victory."The summer began with Bradley Wiggins becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France. Then came the Olympics, where Britain recorded its best showing in 104 years with 29 gold medals (including Murray winning the men's singles) and 65 medals in all. Britain celebrated the close of the Paralympics on Sunday after winning 120 medals, including 34 gold.More than 1 million people lined the streets of London on Monday to cheer the nation's Olympians and Paralympians in a two-hour parade to mark the end of the 2012 Games.A few hours later, with most of the country asleep, Murray became the first man to win the U.S. Open and Olympic gold in the same year."The forecast of course was made yesterday that the great summer of British sport was over, but he's given us another immense prize to wake up to," said Cameron, speaking outside his Downing Street residence.The victory came on the exact day -- Sept. 10 -- that Perry won the U.S. title in 1936. It also came in Murray's fifth Grand Slam final, following in the footsteps of his coach, Ivan Lendl, who lost his first four Grand Slam finals before winning eight major titles.Nowhere was the impact of Murray's win felt more deeply than in his Scottish hometown of Dunblane, a cathedral town made infamous for a mass shooting in 1996, when a gunman killed 16 children and their teacher in an elementary school.A noisy crowd of about 80 people packed into the bar at the Dunblane Hotel to watch the match that ended shortly after 2 a.m. British time, cheering wildly when Djokovic hit a forehand service return long on the final point.Murray did most of his tennis training as a youth in Barcelona but remains fiercely loyal to his Scottish roots. Two other famous Scots -- actor Sean Connery and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson -- were among those in the stands cheering him on at Flushing Meadows."Now Olympic and U.S. Open champion, Andy truly is a Scottish sporting legend and I'm certain that more Grand Slam titles will follow," Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said.The end of the match came too late for many British newspapers, but Murray's triumph made some late editions."History Boy!" blared the tabloid Daily Mirror on the front page. On the sports pages, the Mirror launched a campaign for a Murray knighthood: "Arise Sir Andy: Grand Slam Glory at Last. Oh What a Knight."British TV stations camped out early Tuesday at the modest tennis courts where Murray got his start as a young boy, interviewing youngsters who said they were inspired by his triumph.It's been a long time coming.Murray is one of only two men in the Open era, which began in 1968, to have lost his first four Grand Slam finals -- against Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open, and against Roger Federer at the 2008 U.S. Open, 2010 Australian Open and this year's Wimbledon.It was Murray's decisive, straight-sets victory over Federer in the Olympic final in August on Centre Court at Wimbledon -- less than a month after the Wimbledon defeat -- that lifted his self-belief and provided the platform for his Grand Slam success."Ever since he won the Olympics, he has walked around with a lot more confidence," said Murray's former coach, Leon Smith. "After winning yesterday, it's going to do even more so now. For a great summer of British tennis, this is the icing on the cake."Former British player Greg Rusedski said Murray can only go higher."Having won this, he can go on to win many majors and maybe end the year as ... No. 1," he said.Murray is ranked No. 4 but is close behind No. 3 Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is No. 1 in this week's rankings, with Federer dropping to No. 2.Also crucial to Murray's success has been the influence of Lendl, the no-nonsense Czech-born coach who won two French Opens, two Australian Opens and three U.S. Opens."So much confidence has come from Andy's Olympics win and Lendl has added a great presence," said former British player Roger Taylor, a four-time Grand Slam semifinalist. "There is such a similarity (between the two). It will have given Andy more belief to see Ivan go on to win many Grand Slams and it took him five. He (Lendl) has made a great difference."For years, Murray has been considered just a rung below the "Big Three" of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, who had shared 29 of the previous 30 major titles. Now he's joined the club and Britain is rejoicing."We are all delighted for Andy," Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook said. "Winning your first Grand Slam has to be a very special moment in a player's career and it was a fantastic performance in an epic final to cap a truly memorable summer of tennis for him personally and for British tennis."Even more special would be lifting the Wimbledon trophy. In July, Murray became the first British man to reach the Wimbledon final in 74 years.The pursuit of Fred Perry is not quite over.

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Wizards focus on posting up Wall, Beal against smaller guards

Wizards focus on posting up Wall, Beal against smaller guards

Sporadically, John Wall would post up smaller guards last season. It didn't become a staple of his game, however, and Bradley Beal didn't do much of it either when he was being defended by them. 

Scott Brooks is trying to change that immediately. In seven preseason games, that was one of many focal points for the offense.

Wall is a big point guard at 6-4 and physically strong. Beal isn't exceptionally big for a shooting guard, but he has gotten more size and grown an inch taller than his backcourt mate. When 6-footers such as Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors have to switch onto Beal, the Wizards are getting the ball to him quickly at the rim to force a rotation from a second player to help or clear out for Beal to go to work. 

“As we all evolve we’re going to have to push ourselves to play different spots on the floor. John has great size at his position," Brooks said. "For him to post up and be a playmaker from that spot, defenses are not used to that. There are not a lot of pure point guards who can post up. He has the strength and he has the quickness and obviously he has the passing ability. With Brad, they have to make a decision. Are they going to put a bigger guy on John? We’re going to have that opportunity with Brad also."


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Brooks, Beal impressed with Wizards' passing this preseason

Brooks, Beal impressed with Wizards' passing this preseason

With their regular season opener set for Thursday (6:30 p.m. on CSN), Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was asked after practice this week what has impressed him the most about his new team now that their seven-game exhibition schedule is over. Brooks was quick to point out what has been an established strength for the Wizards in recent years.

"If I had to pick, our offense and our passing has been really, really good," Brooks said. "We're a very good passing team. I thought throughout this exhibition season that has been displayed."

The Wizards have ranked no lower than seventh in assists per game among NBA teams in the last three seasons. It certainly doesn't hurt to have John Wall at the helm of their offense. Wall, 26, has averaged at least 10 assists per game in the past two years. He ranked third in basketball last season with 10.2 per contest.

Wall, in fact, is seventh all-time in career assists per game (9.0) among players with at least 400 NBA games logged. Four of the six ahead of him on the list - Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas - are Hall of Famers. The other two - Kevin Johnson and Chris Paul - are also good names to be associated with. 

Paul, for one, will likely join the others in the Hall someday. He's the only NBA player with more assists than Wall since the latter entered the league in 2010.

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Brooks spoke glowingly about Wall's abilities and his rare his combination of speed and court vision.

"It's uncanny, his speed with the basketball and that he's able to make good decisions at that speed," Brooks said. "He sees it slow motion as he's going fast and that's very rare."

Wall isn't the only one passing the rock, of course. Brooks hopes shooting guard Bradley Beal can get more involved in the cause. Beal has a 3.0 assists-per-game average in his career, but his new coach thinks Beal can average four or five.

That may come naturally, given Beal's thoughts on the subject. He believes the Wizards' offense reached a new level this preseason.

"That's probably the best we've passed since I've been here," Beal said. "That's just everybody having fun and not caring about who scores, just getting the best shot available. When we play like that, it's fun for everybody. It's fun for coaches, it's fun for the players, fun for guys coming in the game with momentum and energy."

The Wizards as a team notched 33 assists in their preseason finale against the Raptors in Friday night. Beal alone had nine of them and no turnovers, to boot. 

That's exactly what Brooks likes to see and he hopes it carries into the regular season.

"We have to continue to trust the pass," he said. "I think our passing has been impressive. We need to continue that."

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