We should have known. This of all Wimbledon fortnights, we should have known the evidence was overwhelmingly in favour of a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 straight sets win for Andy Murray - because before this match began, surely nobody at all believed that would be the outcome. Novak Djokovic was playing too well, was too outstanding a No.1 to be overcome. He lost his epic semi-final against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros only because he came up against a clay court freak of nature. Moreover, Murray’s form at Wimbledon was patchy, and the weight of domestic expectation must surely burden him. The one result we could rule out with certainty was a straight sets triumph for the Scot. Therefore at Wimbledon 2013, the most fascinating Championships there may ever have been, that very scoreline became the absolutely inevitable outcome.
It was 5.24pm when an immense silence engulfed the Centre Court crowd. Three agonising Championship points had escaped Murray’s grasp, and now he had earned a fourth by rescuing a rally he should have lost. He did not know it, but this was his time. Sometimes very wonderful things do happen, and we spend most of our lives in the hope of them. At long last, never again would it be repeated ad nauseam that no Briton has won the men’s Wimbledon title since Fred Perry in 1936. Destiny was at Murray’s shoulder, and this would be history.
Moments later the air was torn apart by a roar like no other. All his life Murray will have thought of this moment... the moment of becoming Wimbledon champion. Last autumn in the nano-second that he knew he had won the US Open, it was so overwhelming he almost did not know what to do. This time, when Wimbledon 2013 became the second Grand Slam title of his career, he knew exactly how to respond.
The racket – his weapon – flew from his hand and he turned to the crowd with a smile as wide as the sky, fists clenched, arms aloft. It was not his players’ box that he looked toward – not his family and friends and coaches, who were falling into one another’s arms, while his mother Judy sobbed uncontrollably. It was the crowd with whom Murray first celebrated, walking towards utter strangers, so he could exchange high-fives with the first half-dozen. And then the scale of his achievement made his head spin with disbelief, and he stumbled away. He moved to embrace Djokovic – superlatively graceful in defeat – and then sank to the turf, all strength deserting him, kneeling, his head on the ground as if in prayer. On this most public of stages, it was an intensely private moment.
He staggered to his feet, looking skywards, covering his face, shaking his head. Fifteen thousand people in the Centre Court cauldron were bellowing his name. Two minutes went by before he reached the umpire’s chair to shake Mohamed Lahyani’s hand. He began to reel towards his players’ box but was overcome again and sank to his knees, covering his face, tears very near. By now the presentation party was all but ready, yet only now could Murray summon the strength to reach the people he cares about the most. Making the time-honoured climb to the players’ box, he embraced them all, an acknowledgment of a debt repaid by all sides to all others.
Murray was preparing to leave when he “heard a squealing behind me” and saw his mother Judy, who had not sat in the box throughout the match. Mother and son, coach and protégé, held one another close before Murray tottered back to his chair where he sat staring about him in plain disbelief. He did not stop shaking his head until his fingertips touched the golden trophy. If his eyes saw the inscription upon the ancient cup, he will have read the words: “All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Championship of the World.” It is the very grail of tennis, and it belongs to Andy Murray.
“No, I didn’t always feel this day was going to happen,” he said afterwards, his voice still tremulous with incredulity. “It’s incredibly difficult to win these events. It takes so much hard work and mental toughness. And it’s really hard to be the standard-bearer of British tennis at Wimbledon. Very tough, very stressful, a lot of pressure. It’s everywhere you go because of how big this event is, but also because of the history and no Brit having won. I think now it will become easier. I hope it will.
“Before the final game I was thinking where I was going to put my first serve, because often when you’re serving for matches the first point of that game is crucial. Then I won the first three points – and it was the hardest game ever, the hardest few points I ever played. At the end of the match I didn’t quite know what was going on. It’s been a blur from then to now. Winning Wimbledon is the pinnacle of tennis.”
Then he shook his head, just as he had in the first moments of his victory.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all