Novak Djokovic found himself on the wrong end of a momentous piece of tennis history on Centre Court today, the losing contestant as a 77-year hex was broken and Fred Perry's record as the last man from Britain to win Wimbledon was finally laid to rest by an inspired Andy Murray.
Clearly disappointed though he was, Djokovic took the reverse in his typical sporting fashion, safe in the knowledge that he will still be world No.1 when the updated rankings are published on Monday, with Murray, Wimbledon champion now alongside his name, tucked in behind him in second spot.
The Gentlemen's Singles champion himself two years ago, Djokovic paid warm tribute to the Scot. "He absolutely deserved this win," he acknowledged. "He played incredible tennis. And congratulations to his team and to all of you guys in the home country. It was an absolute honour and pleasure to be part of it."
While tribute must of course be paid to Murray, who looked the likelier winner almost from the word go, Djokovic can rarely - if ever - have played so indifferently. His total of 40 unforced errors in a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 match lasting three hours nine minutes has perhaps never been exceeded by the Serb, who seemed as if he had not quite got over his punishing five-set semi-final against Juan Martin Del Potro 48 hours previously. "That match took a lot out of me," he conceded. "But I cannot look for excuses in a match of two days ago. I've been in these situations before, I felt OK. Maybe because physically I didn't have enough gas in the important moments I went for my shots more than usual."
He offered Murray three break points in the very first game of the afternoon and after dropping serve in the third game showed familiar fighting qualities to recover that break at once. But he had no response when dropping serve once more, this time to love, in the seventh game and found himself a set behind with 59 minutes played.
Though still clearly some way below his peak, Djokovic forged 4-1 ahead in the second set, only to see that seemingly comfortable margin whittled away and eventually overtaken, amid fierce jubilation among the spectators, as Murray served out the set to love with an ace.
A toilet break in search of the chance to regroup appeared to have had no effect in what proved the final set as he fell 2-0 behind, recovered to lead 4-2 only to be overhauled once more.
When Murray served for the championship at 5-4 Djokovic saved three match points but when Murray reached a fourth, Djokovic could not respond. The 40th unforced error was a tame backhand into the net.
"I could have played better in the decisive moments. It wasn't my day, I didn't play to the top of my abilities and I knew I had to be at the top of my game to prevail in this match. I wasn't patient enough in the moments when I should have been and my serve wasn't as good as it was in the rest of the tournament. But also that is because he is such a good server.
"But this was the final of Wimbledon, so I cannot be too disappointed with my overall performance in the whole tournament. I could have done better today, but that's sport. You cannot win all the matches. Now I'm going to try to take some time off because that's exactly what I need."
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.
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