Murray out to emulate Perry in historic bid

LONDON: As Andy Murray stepped shyly onto the catwalk runway, the Scot looked a million miles from the ruthless competitor who hopes to make history at Wimbledon.

Murray's brief stint as a model for his kit manufacturer Fred Perry this week is unlikely to become a long-term interest judging from the 22-year-old's bashful demeanour while he paraded around a London nightclub in his new all-white uniform.

The world number three, who won his first grasscourt tournament at Queen's last week, has learned quickly that the life of top sportsman in the 21st century is a delicate balancing act between the voracious demands of sponsors and media and the need to hone his skills during hours of practice.

But this week of all weeks, Murray needs to block out all distractions as he prepares for a fortnight that could change his life forever.

If Murray claims the first Grand Slam title of his career at the All England Club next month, he will become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Perry in 1936.

"I feel much more capable of winning a grand slam now than I did at Wimbledon last year. I feel like I'm ready," Murray said.

It would be especially fitting for Murray to cement his place in Wimbledon's storied history while clothed in Perry's kit. But the similarity between the two men, and the eras in which they made their names, ends there.

Perry was the great star of his generation thanks to a hat-trick of Wimbledon triumphs from 1934 to 1936.

His remarkable winning sequence culminated in a 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 victory over Germany's Baron Gottfried von Cramm in a match which lasted only 40 minutes.

But while Murray will collect a cheque for 850,000 pounds if he wins Wimbledon, Perry's reward for his victories in the 1930s was to be virtually ostracised by the tennis establishment.

Perry's success had brought him little financial gain because he was an amateur, so in 1937, a year after he became the first man to win all four Grand Slams, he turned professional.

His decision met with an angry response from the tennis authorities, who had struggled to accept Perry by virtue of his humble upbringing on the outskirts of Manchester.

The Englishman also raised eyebrows with a string of romances with actresses, including Marlene Dietrich and Bette Davis, which made front page news throughout the world.

"Most of the players playing for Britain went to Oxford or Cambridge University. I didn't, but inconveniently, I could beat them. They hadn't had an English winner at Wimbledon for 25 years and when they got one, he wore the wrong tie," Perry later recalled.

Yet Perry's legacy lived on due to the success of his sports and leisurewear range, which he launched in the 1940s. The brand, best known for its laurel logo, has achieved iconic status in fashion circles.

Finally, 50 years after his first Wimbledon triumph, the All England Club acknowledged Perry's contribution to tennis by erecting a statue in his honour.

It is safe to say Murray can expect a far more receptive response if he emulates Perry.