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Wimbledon's fabled 'Hill' saw Murray defeat coming

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - It's not been a good year for British sport. First England exited the World Cup in unseemly haste, and now defending champion Andy Murray has left Wimbledon almost as fast.

Worse, nobody was much surprised. Murray's match on Wednesday lasted just three sets, and they were mostly dominated by his opponent, Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov.

The huge video screen watched by thousands at Wimbledon flashed that Twitter comments showed the local fans and the rest of the world agreed - Murray would lose.

"We're huge Murray fans but he wasn't playing his best," Caroline Sugden of Leicester, England, said after the British champ's defeat.

Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, watched from the Royal Box on Center Court, but Sugden and her daughter left their seats on Court No. 1 to join the crowd on "the Hill", the epicenter of support for British players in the tournament.

"We've sat here many times and watched him, we've eaten Murray Mints and all the rest to help, but at the end of the day I think he was well beaten today," Sugden said.

Lee Williams, a DJ from Reading, England, perched on "the Hill" with his wife Claire, a pharmacist, noted that the English invented a lot of the sports in which they have suffered recent defeats.

"We had a good couple of years, with the (2012) Olympics, winning gold, and the year after that winning Wimbledon, so we just take off the rest of this year and there'll be next year," Williams said.

There was a logic to that. Murray's exit leaves no British contenders in the final stages of a tournament that is as English as the strawberries and cream and the Pimm's cup aperitif served here in tanker-load quantities.

"It wasn't like we had this big wealth of players and one of them happened to be the winner," said Alastair Sewell, who works in a church in Scotland and had come down for the day.

"We had Murray, who is good, and everyone knows when he's out, Britain's out."

Which did not come as entirely bad news to two young women seated on a blanket nearby who declined to give their names but were quick to say - in a low voice - that they preferred Roger Federer to Murray.

"I don't find him exciting as Federer," one of them said. "Like yesterday, when Federer was playing, I was screaming at the screen."

There may have been a lot more like her in the crowd, ready to switch allegiances to the durable Swiss, a seven-time Wimbledon champ, who is looking in strong form. DJ Williams was among them.

"I'm looking forward to Federer now," he said. "He's like our surrogate son."

The slope where the crowds assemble to watch the video screen got its original nickname as "Henman Hill," from the years when Tim Henman was Britain's hope at Wimbledon. Then Murray took over, and it was unofficially re-named "Murray's Mound" or "Murray Mount" - at least until Wednesday.

(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Larry King)

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