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Murray's time will surely come despite bitter defeat

Andy Murray slips as he approaches the net during the third set of the Men's final.
by Ronald Atkin
Sunday 8 July 2012

In the end, one historic achievement lay shattered at Andy Murray's toecaps but the second, sadly, proved beyond him in the Gentlemen's Singles Final at the 2012 Championships. Having erased the Bunny Austin 1938 mark of being the last British man to reach a Wimbledon final, Murray was beaten in four sets by Roger Federer, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. So, despite the excitement, the hype and the expectation surrounding Murray's march to the final, the statue of Fred Perry in the All England Club grounds still pays meaningful, if silent, tribute to the last British man to win the title, back in 1936.

Murray will surely have more opportunities to make that Perry date a redundant one, since he is still only 25. But, after he had captured the first set, to a standing, deafening ovation, his game plan and his hopes were relentlessly eroded by a marvellously disciplined example of professional skills from Federer, who thoroughly merited his seventh Wimbledon title.

So, for the fourth straight time, Murray has come out on the wrong end of a Grand Slam final. Perhaps he will take comfort from the fact that his new coach, Ivan Lendl, also lost his first four major finals, but ended up winning eight Grand Slams - though never Wimbledon. Once a heavy downpour had forced the closure of the Centre Court roof at the start of the third set, the fears of many Murray supporters that Federer would perform more successfully in the calmer conditions of an "indoor" match were fully borne out.

At the prizegiving ceremony, Murray managed to tell his cheering fans, "I am getting closer" before breaking down in tears. Having taken a deep breath or two, he went on, "I am going to try this and it isn't going to be easy." First, he congratulated Federer, and added, "I was asked the other day if this would be my best chance of winning Wimbledon because Roger is 30 now. He is not bad for 30, and he showed what he has left in him. I am not going to look at him in case I start crying again."

Then he thanked all of his support team and concluded by addressing the crowds inside and outside the stadium: "Everybody talks about the pressures of playing Wimbledon, how tough it is. But the support has been incredible. So thank you."

That support lit up a dank day of rain, which cleared just in time for a decision to be made to play without the roof closed, and after the warm-up Murray appeared to delay his walk to the baseline to start play to encourage a big reception, which he duly received. Every point won was cheered, every one lost produced a groan in a 57-minute first set. Since he struck an impressive length with his ground strokes from the very start there were plenty of cheers. He broke Federer in the opening game, but the Swiss, who knows Centre Court as well as his living room carpet, got the break back quickly, punishing Murray's slower second serves relentlessly.

Still, it was Murray who carried the fight to the champion, evading a pair of break points in the eighth game, breaking to 5-4 in the next and then serving out to an ecstatic reception to celebrate the first set he had ever won in a Grand Slam final.

It would prove to be his last on this sadly memorable day. The second set was evenly contested, with Murray regularly forcing Federer onto the defensive. The Swiss man saved two break points in the fifth game and in the ninth game it was the Scot's turn to escape two break points. Then, just when it appeared the set was heading for a tiebreak at 6-5, Federer struck. Murray fell set point down when his lob fell so close to the baseline that it was a surprise that he did not challenge the "out" call. And Federer closed out the set on the next point with a exquisite stop-volley.

At 1-1 in the third set, play was suspended by rain and on the resumption it seemed as if all the momentum and desire had leaked from Murray's game. The crucial game was the sixth in this set. It lasted 20 minutes, contained 10 deuces and Federer captured it on his sixth break point after Murray twice fell heavily, first in pursuit of a drop shot and then while trying to turn sharply on the baseline chasing a lob. As the close calls regularly went against him, Murray began to lose his composure and the match - together with his dreams of glory - slipped away steadily.

As he struggled the crowd grew quieter, sensing it was not to be Andy's day but there was uproar as Federer served for the match, with chants of "Murray, Murray" when he won the opening point. It was to be the last one in a three hour 24 minute contest.

Explaining his tears at the end, Murray said later, "I would be playing the wrong sport if I wasn't emotional. I thought I played a pretty good match, a lot of close shots, a lot of close games, a lot of break points here and there. But he played very well, in the last two sets especially. When the roof was closed he played unbelievable tennis."

Murray said the atmosphere was the best he had ever played in."I just hope everyone enjoyed it, even though I lost. I would say it's the best I have ever played in a Slam final. It wasn't like I gave away bad games or stupid games. I made pretty good decisions for the most part, so I'm happy with that. It's been a great couple of weeks, and a great tournament for tennis and I'm glad I'm a part of that."

Murray said he apologised to Federer after breaking down at the post-match ceremony. "I thought it might look like attention seeking or something, but it was not like that at all. But I've seen Roger do the same thing a couple of times before, so he knows what it's like."

And next for Murray? "I don't know. Not until my mind is right. There's no point in going on the court until I'm ready to learn and work hard and do the right things in the gym and in practice. So I'll wait and see how my body recovers. I fell a lot  of times in this tournament and have a lot of bruises. So I need to take a few days off, let everything heal, recover, and then see. But I won't be on court next week, that's for sure."

 


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