Andy Murray saved his biggest first pump and smile for thousands of fans gathered under the balcony outside Centre Court minutes after he had won his first Wimbledon championship.
He had done it. Not just for himself but for a country that had waited 77 years — since Fred Perry in 1936 — for a new tennis hero, a British man for the new millennium, a perfect partner for the women’s singles champion, Marion Bartoli.
The excitement built to a climax in the last game of this championship match. Murray had broken Novak Djokovic three times in the third set. After the changeover, he walked to the baseline; this service game would be the biggest of his tennis career. What must have been going on in Andy’s mind?
Up he went to 40-love — three championship points to his better — before the pesky Djokovic, known for his tenacity, turned the score tables to ad out, in a matter of seconds. Murray’s serve saved him first, a crack down the tee.
Djokovic won the next point with a drop shot, net creeper. Where was fate roosted now?
Back to deuce. Life returned to Novak’s tired legs via a well-worn mental track deep in his mind. He hit a wicked cross-court forehand then a sharp volley … ad out, again. Hope for the Serb, said a wry smile from him up to his player’s box.
‘Andy, Andy, Andy,’ fans chanted, on their feet. Murray needed that, a push from his people, the people who absolutely were not going to sit still for another loss, another year of waiting and hoping and suffering.
Murray struck a crisp running forehand. Ad in. ‘Andy, Andy, Andy.’ The power drink for Murray’s soul quenched his thirst completely, as a down-the-line drive from Djokovic thwacked the net cord and dribbled back to his side of the court.
“I have no idea what happened [in that game],” Murray told Sue Barker. Sports Illustrated reported Andy saying, “Just how that last game went my head was kind of everywhere … That last game will be the toughest game I’ll play in my career, ever.”
Soon enough he will see the playbacks. Soon enough he could realize that he is the current man about the international celebrity scene … the King of The Courts of Wimbledon. “I can confirm that the Queen has sent a private message to Andy Murray,” the AP reported from a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman.
Centre Court’s eruption was a beautiful chorus of pure joy for their Andy. The feeling echoed throughout Henman Hill, a setting near Tower Bridge, and a crowded hall in Dunblane, Scotland, Murray’s home town.
“Feels slightly different than last year,” Murray told Sue Barker.
“To come back after last year was challenging,” he told ESPN. “I learned from my mistakes. My team helped me understand what I had to do, to be patient. I worked hard.”
Roger Federer defeated Murray in 2012. When asked to speak, Murray broke down in tears. The emotional display endeared fans and countrymen alike. The fact that Murray turned around the result at the Olympics three weeks later, defeating Federer for the Gold Medal, certainly reversed his utter disappointment from the Wimbledon loss. Murray topped off the gold with a U. S. Open title, his first Major win.
This was Murray’s and Djokovic’s third slam final out of the prior four. At the Australian Open, which Djokovic won, Murray did not break serve once over four sets. Today, breaking serve was his saving grace.
Murray was down 1-4 in the second set and won it 7-5. He was down 2-4 in the third and reversed every ounce of momentum, running off four games for the title: 64 75 64.
Murray’s resiliency was previewed during the semifinals against Jerzy Janowicz. Down 1-4 in the third, he came back to win it, which buoyed his conviction to close out the match in the fourth. After that, his confidence filled like a hot-air balloon readying for takeoff on Centre Court Sunday.
“The player has to believe in it,” Ivan Lendl told The Daily Mail earlier this week. “If he doesn’t it’s pointless trying.”
Lendl smiled slightly as camera’s panned that section of the stadium, after the match ended. He clapped lightly, but was the last to rise from his seat. Perhaps his heart was so full of joy it was heavy. Or, perhaps, he, too, was stunned as he absorbed the reality of the moment.
“I hope you guys enjoyed it,” Murray said to Barker, taking a slight glance upwards. “I tried my best.”
The Big Four seemed to have faded in conversations this year, with Federer and Rafael Nadal out early in the tournament. However, they live on. Each has won Wimbledon once over the past four years: Murray in 2013; Federer in 2012; Djokovic in 2011; Nadal in 2010. There seems to be no changing of the guard, just yet, although the rivalry pairing has shifted.
Djokovic fought hard in the final, yet did not seem capable of playing to the level necessary. He became cranky with the chair-umpire over line calls, just as he had in Paris during the semifinal against Nadal. With his mind off point, errors piled up like planes over Gatwick Airport. Djokovic was simply irked by Murray.
“He was all over the court,” he said to Barker.
But Djokovic knew, as all pros do, why he lost. “I should have played better in the decisive moments,” Sports Illustrated reported. “I believe I could come back. I really fighted. It wasn’t my day.”
The day, the fortnight, the summer and the year belong to the United Kingdom. A small, patient and proud country.