Sometimes fairytales do happen in sport. At the start of the tournament nobody would have given Great Britain’s Jonathan Marray and Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen a chance in the men’s doubles. Indeed, no-one would have expected them to make the third round. But riding the crest of the wave, the wildcards stunned all and sundry to cause one of the biggest sensations in men’s doubles history to beat No. 5 seeds Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-3 in the final in front of an ecstatic and raucous Centre Court crowd.
The pair had never even played in a Tour-level event prior to Wimbledon and Nielsen had never previously won a single Grand Slam match. Having previously knocked out No.9 seeds Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the first round, No.8 seeds Aisam Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer and most improbably of all defending champions Bob and Mike Bryan in the semi-finals, another case of giantkilling did not faze the pair.
And when Nielsen put away a simple backhand volley at match point, the underdogs could celebrate one of the most incredible stories Wimbledon has ever known as Nielsen leapt into the arms of his British partner.
It was the first time a man from Denmark had ever won a men’s singles or doubles Grand Slam and Marray became the first Brit since Patrick Hughes and Raymond Tuckey in 1936 to win the men’s doubles title at Wimbledon, a quirk of fate given that Fred Perry was the last man to win the singles event of this tournament as a success-starved nation look ahead to a potential double glory with Andy Murray taking on Roger Federer on Sunday.
But while Marray and Nielsen were left celebrating their improbable triumph, Lindstedt and Tecau were reflecting on their own final hoodoo. The Swedish and Romanian pair have now lost in three consecutive SW19 men’s finals although it looked like it would be a different story early on.
A Lindstedt pass at 3-3 broke the Nielsen serve and the favourites served out for the first set. The second appeared to be going the same way but Marray and Nielsen hung in and their hopes grew as they established their game towards the end of the set.
Lindstedt was broken crucially at 5-4 as Tecau netted on set point from Marray’s return. With the home crowd firmly behind the Brit and Nielsen, who had they had adopted as one of their own, the momentum was firmly behind them. But it took a third set tie-break for them to get the crucial advantage, racing to a 4-0 lead with two stunning returns apiece. Then, Marray owned up to touching the net when it appeared as if a fifth consecutive point was within their grasp.
However the pair re-grouped to take the tie-break 7-5 before rain delayed proceedings forcing the Centre Court roof to be shut.
With four good servers, breaks were at a premium and the fourth set also went to a tie-break. The crowd, voices amplified by the acoustics caused by the roof, played their part sensing a piece of history. It looked like it would come as Marray and Nielsen raced to a 5-2 lead. But two poor backhand volleys by Marray off the Nielsen serve in succession gifted Lindstedt and Tecau the set.
The wildcards, Marray ranked No. 76 in world doubles and Nielsen 111, immediately put that disappointment behind them with a majestic break off the Tecau serve with Lindstedt eventually volleying wide at break point.
A 3-0 lead eventually became 4-1 and then 5-2 despite some nervy serving games and with Centre Court cheering every winning point, Marray eventually closed things out to seal an incredible win, and one British fans will hope is just the start of a weekend of glory.