A special place in British and Scottish sporting history will be reserved for Andy Murray as he broke the great barren run in the All England Championships for British competitors, a total of seventy-seven years without a male winner of the event. Fred Perry was the last British winner of the ‘holy grail’ of British sport in 1936, predating the professional era of tennis. Murray won the title in style, beating world number one Novak Djokovic 6-4 7-5 6-4 on Centre Court as the adoring partisan crowds relished in this exceptional victory. As Djokovic was outplayed by Murray on the day, it ceased to become a classic between the two but it was a game will always be remembered for its clearly historical context.
Murray was a highly accomplished tennis player before he won on Sunday and it may seem strange to say but he may have ended up underappreciated without this win. Tennis at Wimbledon captures the attention of the British public in a way that little else can. It is consistently one of the few sporting events of the year that manages to knock football off the back pages of English newspapers for two weeks every summer. Tim Henman’s valiant attempts of breaking the hoodoo at the turn of the century created the hype that surrounded the need for a British winner of Wimbledon. His failures against superior opponents mirrored the failures of the English national team in football World Cups, always making the quarter or semi-finals but always lacking the extra know-how or skill that the great teams and players had. Henman had helped develop a national allure to root for the plucky underdog in the summer but also a yearning for a British player to stand out and to be that elite player, to be the Sampras or Federer of the court. Murray won the 2012 US Open, he is a six-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, a four-time beaten finalist, he has an Olympic Gold medal and has been a regular top five player for several years. This year, Murray would no longer the underdog but still faced one of the great players of the modern era in Djokovic. He still would have to do it.
The actual match was quite a different game to what the scoreline suggested. A straight sets victory in three hours five minutes is far from an easy win and that was certainly the case on Sunday. Every game between the first and second seeds was a war of attrition. The power of Murray and Djokovic’s returns were so much that serve ceased to be an advantage for most of the encounter. Every game seemed to threaten deuce, every second serve ready to be pounced on. The opening exchanges of the match were what only could be described as a barrage of hard-hitting rallies. To his credit, Murray dominated many of these as Djokovic saved a number of break points before his resolve was finally broken to lose the first set 6-4. Djokovic was never at his absolute best yet this was to be expected. He ran eleven kilometres in the semi-final in defeating Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, while he is known to have unrivaled stamina, it evidently was a factor in his under performance. Meanwhile Murray had taken a path to the final was relatively low-key, luckily avoiding high-profile players as seed after seed succumbed in the first week. His toughest match ended up coming against Verdasco, a disorientated Murray lost the first two sets before eventually coming back to win in five.
Murray took the second set 7-5 and went a break up in the third. Andrew Castle on the BBC began talking about 1934 and he dared to dream. Immediately, Murray’s lead in the set shrunk and when he netted a forehand to trail 4-2, Djokovic had won four games in a row. In this topsy-turvy third set, Murray then proceeded to break the Djokovic serve twice more. His second break was spectacular. He reached an extra gear that he may rarely reach again, fuelled by pure determination and desire to win the tournament that he had always wanted most to win. Murray panted heavily as he served for the match. It was now or never. He had three match points. All of a sudden it was deuce. Djokovic then three times had break point. It was a remarkable final game that summed up a strange match that was in the control Murray but stereotypical resistance from Djokovic never failed to turn the match into a contest despite his below-par performance for the most part. When Djokovic found the net at match point down again, an overjoyed Murray broke down in tears of joy and relief. 26-year old Scot was the 2013 Wimbledon Champion.