WIMBLEDON, England -- Once again, Britain's hopes at Wimbledon rest with Andy Murray.
He was the only Briton left in the tournament Tuesday after the seven other men and women from the host country lost in the first round. Never before had fewer than two British players reached the second round in singles action at the All England Club.
"It's not a great start," said Murray, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year. "If you get a look at the rankings and the actual facts of, you know, where the players are and how they're doing in the bigger tournaments, the big junior tournaments, the results haven't been great."
The early losses by others mean Murray must shoulder the expectations of British fans who yearn for a winner at Wimbledon, the most genteel and tradition-bound of the four Grand Slam tournaments. The Scot has advanced deeper into the tournament each time he has played in it since reaching the third round in 2005, building a sense of anticipation.
Tim Henman, who retired in 2007, carried that burden for years, coming close with four semifinal and four quarterfinal appearances at the All England Club that only deepened the anguish of a public on the cusp of triumph.
"We're rather used to British men bottling out," said Wimbledon spectator Jenny Staples, using a British term for not doing something because of a lack of courage. "We're always so hopeful that we can finally get a British man who can be a Federer or Nadal, and it's not going to happen. Even if we haven't got the best players, we've got the best tournament."
The last British man to win Wimbledon was Fred Perry in 1936. The last British woman was Virginia Wade in 1977, and ever since, the British public and media have engaged in an annual bout of hand-wringing over why they can't produce another champion.
"You know, there's so much pressure on all of us here. All of us, there's nothing more we'd love to do than play good tennis and win here," Briton Anne Keothavong said Tuesday after losing in three sets to Anastasia Rodionova of Australia. "It just didn't happen. It's unfortunate. But, you know, life goes on. Nobody's died."
Wimbledon titles came easy to Martina Navratilova (she has 20, including nine singles crowns), who waded into the debate this week about what is wrong with British tennis.
"It may be just the question of weather. You just don't have enough courts. You saw Andy Murray there, he's practicing indoors because it's raining. And now so much of the tennis is outside," Navratilova said in a BBC interview.
However, she cited deeper concerns about the mentality of British players who are "happy just to sort of be part of it rather than wanting to win," as well as a lot of coaching that is far beneath the standards of tennis academies in France, Spain or the United States.
"For girls, they're just hitting forehands and backhands. They don't know how to serve, they don't really learn how to construct the point, and then they come on the tour, and it's, 'Uh oh, welcome to the big leagues,' and they can't quite handle it," she said.
All six Britons in the women's draw lost in the first round. They included the country's top player, Ukraine-born Elena Baltacha, and Australia-born Laura Robson, a 16-year-old who won the Wimbledon juniors in 2008. Besides Murray, the only other British man in the draw, Jamie Baker, entered on a wild card and lost to Andreas Beck of Germany.
Murray had a comfortable, three-set win on Tuesday against Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic. There was an added sense of urgency in the crowd, with frequent shouts of "Come on, Andy!" coming from the stands on Court 1.
Murray has said he won't play in Britain's Davis Cup relegation playoff against Turkey next month. A loss to Turkey would send Britain into the competition's bottom tier for the first time in the country's history. Britain lost in March to Lithuania in Europe/Africa Zone Group II, a result that ended the captaincy of John Lloyd, a former player who also suffered under national expectations at Wimbledon.
John McEnroe, a three-time Wimbledon winner, said on Sky News that the pressure rises every year that Murray fails to win, and that it could intensify in coming days if Britain's struggling soccer team is eliminated from the World Cup in South Africa in its last group match on Wednesday.
"Let's say they don't make it to the next round, then (the public is) going to lay everything on him," McEnroe said. "He better hope that they get their act together and then keep winning for a while, and maybe that will spur him on."