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History on the Line at Wimbledon Final

7/06/2012 2:43 PM

The ghost of Bunny Austin can finally rest easy.

Austin was the last Brit to reach the finals of Wimbledon (and a Grand Slam tourney, for that matter) back in 1938, until Scotsman Andy Murray crossed that line at the All England Club on Friday with a four-set win over Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Having wiped away 74 years of U.K. futility in taking the step past the semifinals that Tim Henman and Roger Taylor were never able to bridge, Murray is now looking to ace the ultimate serve and erase the legacy of Fred Perry as the last Englishman to win Wimbledon in 1936. To finally rewrite the answer to that 76-year-old tennis history question, Murray must stare down the specter of Roger Federer across the lawn.

The Grand Slam king turned up his serve and turned back the clock during the first semifinal, taking out world No. 1 and defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in four high-level sets of his own.

That leaves ESPN with an historic gentleman’s final during its first fortnight as the U.S. exclusive rights-holder to The Championships. While Serena Williams is a heavy favorite to match Big Sister Venus’ collection of five Venus Rosewater Dishes against Agnieszka Radwanska. She has been suffering from a respiratory ailment over the past few days, but would ascend to No. 1 with a victory.

Murray’s quest is far monumental for himself, the kingdom and BBC ratings.

How large will they be for ESPN, without an American, Djoker and Fed’s (and Murray’s) nemesis, Rafa Nadal, on the screen, remains to be seen. (Check out NBC’s Nielsen Finals results over the past decade below.)

But there are many other numbers to consider that certainly warrant a Wimbledon breakfast of strawberries and cream and tune-in to ESPN by all tennis aficionados and casual sports fans on Sunday, July 8 at 9 a.m. (ET):

*A Federer victory in his record eighth Big W final will level him with Pete Sampras and Englishman Willie Renshaw (back in the late 1800s, the defending champion only had to win the title match) for the all-time mark of seven Wimbledon crowns.

*Should Roger extend his own Grand Slam mark to 17 he will also tie Pistol Pete for the most weeks as No. 1 with 286.

*He would become the first man on the wrong side of life’s 30 netcord to win a Slam since Andre Agassi captured the 2003 Australian Open. Jimmy Connors was the last 30-something man to reach the final here 28 years ago, when he lost to ESPN commentator John McEnroe.

*A Murray victory would exact Major revenge against Federer, who topped the Scot in two (2008 U.S. Open, 2010 Australian) of his three losses in Grand Slam finals.

*Andy would avoid tying his coach Ivan Lendl, who dropped four Major finals before breaking through in a career that netted eight Slams. His protégé would also give the hard-hitting Czech some form of redemption after he succumbed to Boris Becker and Pat Cash in the 1986 and 1987 Wimby finals, respectively.

*Murray would join Argentine Juan Martin del Potro (a five-set winner over Federer at the 2009 U.S. Open) as the only man to muscle in on the Slam stranglehold that has seen Djokovic, Nadal and Fed claim 28 of the last 29 Majors.

*The winner could score an historic Golden Grass-court Double: Not only would the victor hold the trophy at The Championships aloft, but he would be in position to possibly drape an Olympic Gold Medal around his neck. The tennis competition at the London Games will be held at Wimbledon in just three weeks.

As ESPN’s Hannah Storm said after Murray had set up this version of a Dream Final: “You have your native son, and your favorite son.” One of them is going to leave his mark on history.

Wimbledon Finals Ratings

Women’s                           Men’s
Year Rating Viewers      Rating Viewers
2011 1.6 2.25 mil.           1.8 2.65 mil.
2010 1.6 2.23 mil.           1.6 2.32 mil
2009 2.3 3.27 mil.           3.8 5.71 mil.
2008 2.5 3.65 mil.           3.5 5.17 mil.
2007 2.2 3.06 mil.           2.7 3.75 mil.
2006 2.0 2.65 mil.           2.5 3.40 mil.
2005 3.4 4.62 mil.           2.1 2.75 mil.
2004 3.1 3.98 mil.            2.8 3.64 mil.
2003 2.9 3.42 mil.            2.2 2.67 mil.
2002 3.4 4.55 mil.            2.4 3.21 mil.

Source: Nielsen

September