Holy, holy, holy mackerel and all the fish in the all seas. I have been watching tennis for 60 years – 60 years and I have never seen a more emotionally draining occasion than the one on Centre Court on Sunday. Oh baby, it was special. As a New Yorker it takes something to say this but this, a Wimbledon final below perfect blue skies, is a setting that I don’t think can be beaten. Add a Brit winning and there you go. It cannot get better.
I did not expect three sets and the way the match started off, those long thudding rallies, boom, boom, boom, 30 minutes for the first couple of games, long points, long games. So where did Andy Murray win it? Because let’s just be straight with this – Novak Djokovic did not lose it, Murray won it.
Home advantage? Or home pressure, history pressing down on your guy’s broad shoulders? It was home advantage. In the semi-final Murray used the support to lift him and on Sunday he surfed that wave to perfection. The Wimbledon crowd do not have a reputation as real homies but this time they just could not help themselves.
“The atmosphere was incredible for him – not for me!” said Novak afterwards. Unquestionably it helped Murray. No doubt about it.
But he still had to go out on that court and win a tennis match. There was something else Novak said after the match. He said that Andy Murray was all over the place and this was the single most important factor in why Britain now has a Wimbledon champion.
Murray’s movement was amazing. It was like he had had Richard Williams in his locker room. Richard used to tell his girls, Serena and Venus, to never give up on a point, never ever and that is how Murray approached the match. He ran down everything. His speed was phenomenal and it got to Djokovic.
He made some 40 unforced errors in three sets, which is a hell of a tally for a guy of Djokovic’s class (and, hey, I still see him as the best in the world and can’t see this one defeat ending that). Murray rushed Djokovic – everywhere he looked there he was and that disturbed the Serb.
Murray’s fitness and the improvement in his physicality has been a feature of his improvement over the last couple of years. He is such a fit man and it makes a difference. It certainly did yesterday as he was fit and fast. This really was the absolute key – Murray had the moves, man.
This is another area where Murray has made such strides in recent years and it was in full working order, unlike the man across the net. Djokovic did not serve well and Murray chalked up 17 break points. The first serve percentage was actually marginally in the Serb’s favour but he also had more double faults and half the number of aces. Murray kept his cool and kept his serve working in the heat.
Murray is one of the best in the game at getting that goddamn ball back over the net. Obviously the movement is an important part of that – being in the right place at the right time – but he created the pressure on Djokovic knowing that he had to fight to save every service point. The two-handed backhand – oh boy, do I love that shot – was firing missiles. There was one in particular late in the second set that scudded across the net and the point ended with Djokovic venting his frustration at the course the match was taking.
“I persevered,” said Andy of how he has got here. He has had parts of the game for a long time but bringing that all together and capping it with mental strength is what makes a winner.
On Sunday he was all there up top. So cool throughout. In the second set he looked up at the scoreboard and saw it reading 4-1 in Novak’s favour. Or maybe he didn’t see it all. He was so focused on the end game. He is a champion.