6-4 7-5 6-4. The scoreboard suggests a simple straight sets victory for Andy Murray as he defeated World Number 1 Novak Djokovic to earn a second major tournament title. However, beating the Serb and putting a 77 year-old story to bed was anything but, as Murray became the first British player to lift the Wimbledon trophy since 1936. For some, the annual obsession over this statistic must have become tedious to the point of irritation, not least for Murray and his predecessor at the top of the British rankings, Tim Henman. Tedious perhaps, but by no means an irrelevance. The expectation of Britain’s sports fans and attention from its media are not trivial to deal with and over the last few years you got the feeling that Murray has been desperate to deliver the title, not just to get the monkey off his back, but to bring genuine elation to the millions of fans that turn up or tune in to cheer him on. As part of Team GB, Murray made a contribution to the general feel good factor of last year’s successful Olympic Games by winning gold in the men’s singles tennis, but yesterday was his moment and his moment alone. As he stepped out on to the balcony of the All England Tennis Club to parade the winner’s trophy to the jubilant throng gathered beneath, his expression flickered briefly to one of modest disbelief at just how much this one victory meant to a nation.
Djokovic was classy as ever in defeat and praised Murray’s game, but undoubtedly he was not at his best in the match. There were fleeting moments of his brilliant best interspersed with some moments where you wondered whether this truly was the world’s best tennis player at the opposite end of the court to Murray with Novak frequently finding the net and sending his ground strokes long over the baseline. These things are all relative though and beating the six-time grand slam winner was never going to be an easy task for Murray. He was made to work hard for each break of serve and was frequently put under pressure in his own service games, coming from behind to take both the second and third sets. Murray’s resilience when facing these crucial moments was awe-inspiring. To win the second set from 1-4 down by reeling off five games in a row was impressive enough but the final set was the biggest testament to the belief he now has in himself. Murray broke Djokovic’s serve in the opening game of the third set and opened up a 2-0 lead. When the Serb responded with two service breaks of his own, it looked as if the match was headed for a fourth set. Murray though was always creating chances on Djokovic’s serve and took enough of them to find himself at 5-4 and serving for the championship. The Centre Court crowd willed Murray towards the title and all of a sudden he had three championship points. Perhaps like Gerard Butler, who was watching courtside, Murray couldn’t quite believe the position he was in because, for the only time in the match, his nerve faltered and the three chances went begging. The lapse was momentary though as Murray demonstrated his now supreme temperament in fending off two break points before finally sealing the deal on his fourth championship point as Djokovic sent a final backhand into the net. It took all of Murray’s guts to clinch this roller coaster of a final game and take the deserved glory.
Some may condemn the overall quality of this year’s tournament. Early exits for Federer and Nadal and some other high seeds including Tsonga, Wawrinka and Čillić left the field depleted of the top talent. This is a fair enough point and both finalists were probably only really tested once each on the way to the last round; Djokovic overcame Juan Martin del Potro in a gruelling five set semi-final and Fernando Verdasco asked some serious questions of Murray in Wednesday’s quarter-finals before the Scot eventually prospered. Nevertheless, the top two players faced off in the final and winning 7 best-of-five-set matches in the space of 13 days should never be considered anything less than a major achievement. As for the future, amidst all the celebration surrounding Murray’s Wimbledon victory, it’s important not to forget that this is his second major title after his watershed moment at Flushing Meadows last year and so the Brit now currently holds two of the four major titles. At 26 he’s at the peak of his physical condition and if he continues to play with the belief that has characterised the last 12 months of his career, he will unquestionably have opportunities to add more major titles to this tally.
Finally, this year’s Championships once again showcased how well the BBC does sports coverage. This is one of the last top-class sporting events the BBC has coverage rights for, with the rights to so many other events having been sold off to the highest bidder. Hopefully, the Beeb have no intention of relinquishing this particular jewel in the crown. The tournament would lose something of its tradition were the matches to be shown on Eurosport or Sky. Only the football World Cup finals come close to matching Wimbledon as a unifying spectator sport. People gather round workplace TV sets to watch and the tennis courts at local parks fill up. Sport inspires people and there were no more inspiring moments than the events of Sunday afternoon. For so long the BBC coverage has been defined by the prospects of a British champion and it’s the human element as much as the sporting spectacle that keeps viewers tuning in. Now that we have a true champion, let’s hope that people continue to tune in to watch and be inspired by a winner.