London: Britain`s press paid tribute to Andy Murray on Saturday, despite the Scot falling in the Wimbledon semifinals for the third year in a row.
Some newspapers said Murray had shown he was capable of taking Rafael Nadal on, while others said he was the best Britain had had for 70 years and got as far as he did despite the tennis system here rather than because of it.
Spaniard Nadal reached his fifth Wimbledon final on Friday with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win over an outclassed Murray, leaving British hopes of a first champion since 1936 in tatters.
The Times said that any British victory in any sport was a success against the odds, because "there are too few of us trying to do too much at once".
It said that Britain was the only nation that purports to be world-class at football, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, tennis and athletics.
"Then, having spread ourselves so thinly, we have the eccentricity to play more minor sports than anyone else," it said, citing Britain`s "excellent long-term record" in archery and dressage.
Then factor in the social class divisions further narrowing the pool for each given sport.
"For all these reasons, it is not a failure but a victory against the odds for a young Scotsman to be the fourth best tennis player in the world."
The Sun said Murray was good, but not good enough when faced with world number one Nadal.
"Nobody can deny Andy Murray battled bravely before going down to Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon," it said.
"We`re used to tennis disappointment. It was the same when Tim Henman always fell at the last hurdle.
"But at least we`ve seen a lighter, brighter Murray this time.”
"There`s always next year, Andy. And the year after that, and the year after that..."
Three-time Wimbledon singles champion Boris Becker wrote in The Daily Telegraph that Murray had shown mental fragility against the very top opponents.
"Emotionally, Murray has not worked out how to approach the big games. He doesn`t know when to get angry and when to stay calm," the German wrote.
Nonetheless, "Murray is closer to that first major title after this tournament than he was before it.
"He is good enough, but perhaps he needs to realise that for himself."
The Daily Mirror said Murray`s fighting spirit showed he was a champion in all but name.
Brian Reade wrote in the tabloid: "Once again we can revel in our favourite summer sport -- hating ourselves for believing we had a tennis player capable of beating the world.”
"Then taking it out on the loser by labelling him -- like every Brit male since the 1930s -- a serial bottler, a wimp.”
"But we do ourselves no favours by deriding Andy Murray, because competing among the world`s best players in a sport this country does nothing about makes him a great.”
"The likes of Nadal win Grand Slams because of the Spanish coaching system: Murray reaches semifinals in spite of our system.”
"We`ll go through this again in 12 months. Same time. Same place. Same result."