In sporting arenas the home crowd always has a massive role in the destination of any match. Think about the Thomond roar for the Munster rugby team, Fortress Ainfield for Liverpool football club and of course the Wimbledon Championships with the vociferous home crowd cheering on their home hero. Andy Murray and Johanna Konta have enjoyed such backing in their battles on Centre Court with the flags and horns really making for a brilliant atmosphere. Imagine 15000 people cheering against you, applauding your double faults and errors. What a caldron with such a cacophony of noise. How on earth can you perform when everyone wants you to miss?
Andre Sa, the Brazilian quarter final opponent of Tim Henman at the 2002 Championships has first hand experience of being the ‘bad guy’ on the biggest stage. Sa in an interview with Betway Insider said he found the whole match really really tough against the home favourite. England vs Brazil with 15,000 English fans against 0 Brazilian. To make matters worse it was a World Cup Year and guess who had drawn England in the quarter finals? None other than Brazil. This added a little extra spice to the tennis tie.
Tim Henman with his unmistakable serve and volley style won the first set. In the initial stages Henman was cagey, trying to feel out his opponent. Sa had very little grass court experience and with a ranking of 90 he was by far the lowest ranked player. The pressure was on Tim. Tim never made things easy for himself and often took the crowd on a rollercoaster of emotions. Henners, with the first set in the bag, despite playing within himself, looked on course for victory. We know that things were never straight forward for Tim fans.
Sa said ‘ When I won the second set, that’s when things were tricky. I think they started to worry a little bit. And in the third set I started out with an early break and the crowd was getting really nervous’At this stage the crowd realised that their guy was in trouble and they had to do something; something to rouse him from the slump and the only thing they could do was to raise their voices to get behind their man. The home crowd seemed to do the trick as Henman came back from a break down in the third to win and then eventually got over the line in the 4th set. Henman was a relieved man, knowing that he would have to improve his game substantially in the semi finals especially if he was to become the first British player to win the Wimbledon title in so many years.