‘Winning Wimbledon is the pinnacle of tennis’ — Andy Murray
Back in 1936, Englishman Fred Perry beat Gottfried von Cramm 6-1, 6-1, 6-0, to take his third successive Wimbledon singles title. However, for the last 77 years,
Britain has waited for another native male to be victorious and hoped that Andy Murray would do it this year.
For the largely English crowd at centre court on July 7, Murray would indeed be British if he won and a Scot if he lost.
The strange and wonderful world of Wimbledon
Wimbledon is the oldest of the four tennis grand slams. The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club held its first tournament in 1877 and prior to World War One, New Zealand’s greatest tennis player, Anthony Wilding, won the singles title four times.
It is the only grand slam to be played on grass and inevitably the surface deteriorates as the tournament progresses. Roger Federer and Victor Hanescu played the first centre court match this year on a beautifully groomed, blemish free lawn, whereas Djokovic and Murray in the last match had to cope with worn and dusty baselines which caused the occasional slip and slide.
Tradition is a key part of the Wimbledon fortnight. In the seats at one end, fashionable dresses and suits, collars and ties are de rigeur for the rich and famous who attend. The two individual competitions are politely known as the ladies and gentlemen’s singles.
If royalty is present, women finalists curtsey before starting their hit up, white clothing must be worn and low cut dresses are not permitted. However many women players pay lip service to the dress code by wearing short white dresses, but adding colour elsewhere.
The up and coming Murray
A year ago, The Times tennis reporter, Simon Barnes, said of Murray that he
made a major error in… competing … at a time when three players of undisputed all-time greatness are all plying their trade. He was referring to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who had won all but one of the previous 30 grand slams. Could Andy Murray, a survivor of the appalling 1996 Dunblane school massacre, break their hold on the big tournaments?
The last year has seen him make it into the top echelon of the men’s game.
This is what he did:
- made the final at Wimbledon, only to lose to Federer
- won the gold medal at the London Olympics, getting his revenge against Federer
- won the US Open, beating Djokovic, and secured the first British grand slam victory since the mid 1930s
- was the runner up in the 2013 Australian Open, losing to Djokovic.
However a win at Wimbledon would be the big breakthrough. Not surprisingly, the pressure was on the Scot to deliver, as the media did its usual mid-year hype about a possible British victory.
Getting through seven rounds
Djokovic and Murray were seeded one and two and would meet in the final if they could get through a very strong field. Murray had the tougher draw and if games went with seedings, Murray would have to beat Nadal, winner of the recent French Open, in the quarter finals, the great Federer in the semis and then try and knock off the world number one in the finals.
Unknowns Steve Darcis and Sergiy Starkhovsky did Murray a big favour by beating Nadal and Federer respectively, in the early rounds. But in the quarter finals the Scot nearly faltered against the unseeded Fernando Verdasco. It was a tough five setter, but Murray eventually prevailed 7-5 in the fifth. Meanwhile Djokovic had to fight hard in a four hour 45 minute semi-final against del Potro, before winning 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.
So Murray was through to his second successive Wimbledon final, but could he beat the top seed?
The setting for success
It was a beautiful day for the final, with the sun beating down at temperatures around 40 degrees. The crowd in the open courtside seats had done the slip, slop, slap and most sensibly wore hats. Prime Minister David Cameron and the other well dressed dignitaries had the luxury of shade in their covered stand.
Many in the unashamedly partisan full house had MURRAY or ANDY written on their hats; there were a few Let’s make history posters and the occasional shouts of I love you Andy! Meanwhile outside the centre court, thousands watched on a big screen on the hill that some call Murray’s Mound.
The best of the 200 tournament ball girls and boys were ready, as well as the immaculately dressed umpire and line judges. The stage was set for history to be made.
A great moment in British (and Scottish !) sporting history
The first set went to Murray 6-4, after five service breaks. Djokovic was uncharacteristically making twice as many unforced errors as the Scot and failed to capitalise on a 4-1 lead in the second set. The Serb often showed poor judgement and failed to put away seemingly easy winners allowing Murray to take the set 7-5.
But Djokovic fought back and led 4-2 in the third set. Up until this point there had been many long baseline rallies and little variation in the play, however the final set saw some top quality tennis.
The Scot ran down plenty of excellent Djokovic ground strokes and produced some superb passing shots. He pulled the score back to 4-4, broke Djokovic’s serve for a 5-4 lead and then had three championship points at 40-0. But the Serb fought on and had three break points of his own, before Murray ran out the winner 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
So after 77 years the British have another Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles champion.
After the match, the announcer said to Murray: ‘It was tortuous watching that last game!’ The new champion replied, ‘Try playing it!’