Wimbledon 2013: On Murray Mound, the faithful gave a mighty roar

Paul Bignell joins the fans on an afternoon most thought they might never see

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The Independent Online

In the end, the roar was as loud and united as we could have hoped: it was what the Murray Mound-faithful had always dreamed of. And the thousands of tennis fans gathered watching that last game – that last point – didn’t waste a decibel.

“He put us through the mangle again,” said a very relaxed or possibly very relieved Dominic Kelly, 52, clutching a half-empty bottle of champagne. “I didn’t think he was going to win because we’ve been here so many times before. But there was something different in the way he played today. That last year made all the difference. But I didn’t think he was going to win because we’ve been here so many times before.”

Despite the bottle of bubbly, Mr Kelly’s day had not been all that glamorous – he was, after all, standing by a recycling bin. A wine merchant from Southfields, just a stones-throw away from the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Mr Kelly said he had found the perfect spot on an overcrowded Murray Mound to stand. “We had a BBQ here on Wednesday. It’s perfect because no one wants to stand here because it’s by a bin. It’s perfect too because you got the breeze up here and later in the day, the clouds came over.”

As Murray lifted the trophy on the big screen, chants of “Andy! Andy! Andy!” broke out throughout the 4,500 or so fans. Then more of “Braveheart!” And “Easy! Easy! Easy!”

Some people began to file down the hill, perhaps for a well-earned drink, giddy and delirious at the intoxicating mixture of this balmy, humid evening and the sense of joy.

Others just stood on the spot, mouth agape, perhaps unsure what to do next. Did this really happen?

For those who had travelled the length and breadth of the country though, it was worth the journey. Janis Baxter, 67, from Montrose in Scotland had come on a coach tour to Wimbledon for the first time. “It’s just absolutely unbelievable,” she said. “I knew he’d win, though. I knew he’d do it this time. I went to [Murray’s hometown of] Dunblane when he won the Olympic gold, but this tops it.”

As 15,000 tennis fans inside Centre Court did all they could to keep cool on this sweltering Sunday, for the thousands of fans on Murray Mound it was an altogether more tricky prospect.

Barely a patch of grass was visible with people jig-sawing themselves into any available space, on what has now become this most sacred of hills.

Even those fans whose view of the big screen was at the most acute of angles, it did not matter: it was a triumph just being on the Mound.

The umbrellas, the sun cream, the flags – they were all out in force. Yet, earlier in the day people had wilted under this slice of “extreme weather”. “I can’t deal with this heat,” said one fan, storming past in the midday heat towards the beer tent, grabbing at his shirt buttons and ripping it open.

It seems we Brits are never happy, no matter whether we have the sun or are missing it. But in the end it was fitting for the occasion, as history was made. 

At times during the early sets, the crowds appeared subdued, understandably on Centre Court as temperatures there pushed almost 50C in the cauldron-like arena. Any unnecessary movement or hollering was all energy to be conserved for later. And how they hollered later.

During the breaks, almost 100 people queued patiently at the water fountain, replenishing bottles as other just chucked the contents of their bottles over themselves in a bid to keep cool. Occasionally a wisp of cloud would give the briefest of respites. But not for long.

As others pushed further and further back to find space, the view would become even more restricted. At the top of Murray Mound, almost at a set of gates leading out of the grounds fans teetered, stooped and crouched in a bid to see the screen; through a hedge-row or round a tree.

Others just slept peacefully, oblivious at the titanic effort going on inside Centre Court.

And as those final few, tense points were played out, an elderly Scottish gentleman shook his head and said “look at his poor mother” as Judy Murray’s usual poker-face gave way on the big screen to reveal her nerves.

It wasn’t of course just Judy who had followed his pain and his glory. Margaret Robbins, 64 from Newport in South Wales, who could at first barely get her words out, said: “I’m absolutely speechless and so overjoyed. I’ve been following Andy since he started as a young boy. It’s unbelievable.

“This trip to Wimbledon was a 65th birthday present from my daughter.” Even the pensioners can’t remember the last time this happened. What a day.