James Lawton on Andy Murray's Wimbledon victory: A triumph never to be forgotten. An inspiration to everyone who watched
The nation had waited 77 tortuous years for this moment and, in the end, victory came at a canter. James Lawton reports on a triumph that defied the odds
Of all the days he will know, and all the prizes he will win, these were the ones bathed in golden sunshine that Andy Murray will always have with him – and for which he will always be revered.
He did something more important here than simply winning a tennis crown the nation has been craving for 77 years – to the claiming of which he has devoted so much of a life once scarred by the school shooting tragedy in his home town of Dunblane.
He won the Wimbledon men’s title – last gained for Britain by Fred Perry amid polite and decorous scenes – with a spirit and a brilliance which said to Britain’s youth that, if you work hard enough, if you believe that you can beat any odds put in front of you, anything can be achieved.
This was indeed the reality when Murray raced to his three-set victory in a little more than three hours, because he didn’t merely beat a highly esteemed rival. He overwhelmed Novak Djokovic, the 26-year-old Serbian many tennis experts were beginning to believe might just be the greatest player the game has ever seen.
The score, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, might also suggest that the winner of six Grand Slam titles had an unaccountably bad day, one when his famous appetite for victory had been worn down by the extraordinary passion of Murray and his Centre Court support.
But he didn’t surrender – he fought so ferociously that later Murray, after his climb to the stands to embrace his entourage, including his coach Ivan Lendl and his mother Judy, said: “I don’t expect to ever have a harder game. The points were unbelievably hard but it was something I wasn’t going to let go. This is what I have been working for all these years and once I felt I had it my grasp I wasn’t going to let it go.”
What he wasn’t going to let go was one of the great days of sporting history. In its celebration of a British institution’s passion for a summer game, it is one to rival England’s one and only World Cup football victory at Wembley in 1966.
Then, the Charlton brothers embraced, Bobby Moore was carried aloft and Nobby Stiles, toothless and jubilant, performed his victory jig.
They said all this provoked the greatest celebrations in the streets of London since the night of victory in Europe in 1945.
Last night in Wimbledon we had something that would never be forgotten. Not by the thousands in front of the big screen on what was once known as Henman Hill – named for the gallant futility of Murray’s predecessor Tim Henman before it was rechristened Murray Mound – and those in the Centre Court who so often raced ahead of the play in their emotions, they had to be curbed by the umpire.
The celebration seemed to run a little deeper than for a mere triumph on a tennis court. It was maybe a matter of pride that one young man had reached out so hard and so brilliantly to pull off his great ambition.
There was a time when some doubted Murray’s ability to pull off his great challenge. His temper could flare, his mood could become desperate and dark, but he kept searching for a moment of breakthrough.
It came last year with the US Open title and an Olympic gold but it was always this prize in London SW19 which represented the apex of his ambition.
With the help of his knowing, Grand Slam-winning coach Lendl, Murray broke down the mysteries of what it was to rise to the top of what is generally agreed to be the greatest generation of players in his history of tennis. Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, the founders of this elite, disappeared early this year and, according to so many experts, left a vacuum to be inherited by Djokovic.
Instead Murray simply grew stronger with each new round of the challenge. Yesterday evening, when Djokovic fought so brilliantly to retrieve three match points in the final game, Murray stopped short only at baring his chest and gnashing his teeth before declaring: “This is the pinnacle of tennis and I’m just not coming down. It will be take me some time to understand what happened, to get it all in perspective, but I will always remember how it was when I served to 40-love in that last game and then saw three match points slip away.
“It couldn’t happen – and I wasn’t going to let it happen.”
His nerve in the winning of superb points at the net was ultimately decisive. Each time he pulled one off the Centre Court roar was like a roll of thunder and it was as though Djokovic was a fading champion who had taken another punch.
When the rituals of winning and losing were over, Djokovic said: “Yes, for three sets it was an extremely long match and the bottom line was that he was the better player in the decisive moments. In the second set I led 4-2 and I couldn’t stop him getting back into it. He was running down drop-shots, he was making incredible shots. He was all over the court. He was fantastic.”
Wimbledon agreed quite thunderously. They had seen, after all, something rather more uplifting than the best British male tennis win since Fred Perry, in his white flannels, whipped Gottfried von Cramm.
They had seen a brilliant young compatriot make good his dreams and their own.
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