Rest in peace, Fred Perry. Seventy-seven years after the MP’s son from Stockport won the last of his three All England Club titles, Britain finally has another Wimbledon men’s singles champion. Andy Murray, for so long the standard-bearer for his country, achieved one of his lifetime ambitions and ended the nation’s tortuous wait for a home winner when he claimed the trophy here on Sunday amid scenes of raucous celebration on Centre Court.
Twelve months after suffering one of the greatest disappointments of his career when he lost to Roger Federer in his first Wimbledon final, Murray returned to beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 after three hours and nine minutes of pulsating drama. The lessons learned from last year, plus the confidence he derived from his subsequent Olympic and US Open triumphs, were all evident as Murray swept aside the world No 1 with a superbly focused display of attacking tennis.
“Winning Wimbledon, yeah, I still can’t believe it,” Murray said in his post-final press conference. “I can’t get my head around that. I can’t believe it.”
In front of a crowd full of famous faces, ranging from David Cameron through to Wayne Rooney, and two Wimbledon legends in Rod Laver and Roy Emerson, Murray confirmed what a supreme master of grass-court tennis he has become. This was his 18th victory in a row on the sport’s most challenging surface and was achieved on the hottest day of the tournament, with the temperature approaching 30C.
“It was so hot,” Murray said. “I hadn’t played any matches in the heat of the day. Since I missed the French Open with my back, it had been cool. I hadn’t played at all in those sort of conditions. The first few games were brutal as well. The first four games took 30 minutes, so it was an incredibly demanding match physically.”
After seeing Djokovic save three Championship points when Murray served for the set, the Scot described the last game as “mentally the toughest I’ll ever play in my career”.
Murray remained focused on his task from start to finish. Asked what he had been thinking at the change-over before the final game, Murray said: “I was thinking, honestly, where I was going to serve my first serve. Often in games when you’re serving for matches, the first point of the game can be crucial. So I was thinking exactly where I was going to serve. I wasn’t thinking anything else.”
Djokovic admitted that Murray had been the better player in the crucial moments. “I didn’t play on the top of my abilities” the Serb said. “I wasn’t patient enough in the moments when I should have been and my serve wasn’t as good as it was the whole tournament.” He added: “That’s life. You have to move on. I’ll be okay tomorrow.”
From the start the crowd crackled with excitement both inside – Murray said it was the best atmosphere he had ever played in at the All England Club – and outside as thousands watched the giant TV screen on Henman Hill. The Centre Court crowd has probably never been louder at these Champion-ships and they matched the volume that was generated last year when Murray won Olympic gold here.
“The atmosphere today was different to what I’ve experienced in the past,” Murray said. “It was different to last year’s final, for sure. At the end it was incredibly loud, very noisy.
“I’ve been saying it all week, but it does make a difference. It really helps when the crowd’s like that, the atmosphere is like that. Especially in a match as tough as that, where it’s extremely hot and there are brutal, long rallies, tough games, they help you get through it.”
When Murray climbed into the stands to celebrate with his family and entourage, the first person he embraced was Ivan Lendl, his coach, who in the last 18 months has helped to turn him from nearly man into champion.
“He just said that he was proud of me, which obviously coming from him means a lot,” Murray said. “He doesn’t smile in public too much, but when he’s away from the crowds and the cameras he’s a very different character. Ideally he would have won [this title] himself, but I think this was the next best thing for him. He believed in me when a lot of people didn’t. He stuck by me through some tough losses in the last couple of years. He’s been very patient with me. I’m just happy I managed to do it for him.”
Having celebrated with his girlfriend Kim Sears and his father Willie, the one person Murray initially forgot was his mother, Judy. As he started to climb back down to the court, however, he said he heard her “squealing” and returned to embrace her.
Murray, who is the first Briton of either sex to win a singles title here since Virginia Wade in 1977, has triumphed at the eighth attempt. Only Goran Ivanisevic, who won the title at the 14th time of asking, has waited longer in the Open era.
Asked how difficult it had been to be the main hope of British tennis for so long, Murray said: “It’s hard. It’s really hard. For the last four or five years, it’s been very, very tough, very stressful, a lot of pressure. The few days before the tournament were really difficult as well and the last two days are not easy. Everywhere you go it’s so hard to avoid everything because of how big this event is, but also because of the history and no Brit having won. It’s been very, very difficult.”
As for the memory of Perry, Murray did not quite know what to say. “It’s a name that I’ve heard so much over the course of my career,” he said. “It’s a shame that I never got to meet him.”