They told us the frenzied scenes which were witnessed during the Olympics in London last year were once in a lifetime. It took just 11 months for the country to see them once more as British sporting history was made at Wimbledon.
Andy Murray’s three-set win over Novak Djokovic ended Britain’s long and agonising wait of 77 years to celebrate a Gentlemen’s Singles champion. The day that many thought would never come had finally arrived.
There was a feeling of astonishment on the competitors’ lawn as members of Murray’s team, his friends, family and guests gathered to celebrate just moments after. The champagne corks were popped and his mum Judy recalled her feelings during that agonising last game while sipping on a glass of the fizzy stuff.
“I was thinking that normally when you are serving at 40-0 there is a high chance you are going to win the game,” she said. “Andy was a little bit tentative which was totally understandable and before you knew it, it was deuce.
“Some of the points that they both played in that last game were just outrageous and he just managed to keep his composure and get there in the end. It was a fantastic match and I am absolutely thrilled for him.”
In the corner, Sir Chris Hoy, the six-time Olympic gold medallist, reflected on what it was like to sit among the Murray camp on Centre Court as they desperately willed their man on.
“The feeling was that it was his destiny, that this was the time for him,” said Hoy. “There was never complacency or overconfidence but you could tell that they felt Andy was in the best shape of his life physically and mentally, and that today was going to be his day.
“It’s nerve-wracking when you don’t have any control over what is happening,” he said. “[You have] to sit there, keep your fingers crossed, cheer them on and hope that they can feed off that energy from the crowd.”
The champion eventually emerged on the lawn to a rapturous welcome. Yet amid all the handshakes, all the hugs and all the chaos, he admirably still had time for a quick chat on the phone with his granny Shirley.
This was a day when Murray Mania reached fever pitch. Even before Murray’s semi-final against Jerzy Janowicz had finished on Friday evening, the tents were already being pitched up in the queue for Sunday. Bear in mind that these people were content to sit on Henman Hill (or is it now officially Murray Mound?) and watch the match on a big screen. It meant that much to simply be within the grounds of the All England Club and be a part of sporting history.
The stories of fan dedication are quite remarkable. Take the example of Alistair Smith, who donned a kilt for the occasion, and his nine Scottish friends who got into two cars on Saturday night at 10.30pm and set off from Kilmarnock. Arriving in London eight hours later, they joined the queue just after 7am and faced a further five-hour wait before they even got into the grounds.
When Billy McRitchie, of Dundee, joined the queue for the semi-finals on Friday at 5:30am, he was handed a queue card numbered 317. He enjoyed his experience so much that he decided to come back again for the final. Arriving at 6am, he was astonished to find that there were already 1,679 people in front of him.
“The atmosphere is a big part of it,” he said. “Friday was a bit special so there was no doubt we were coming back today. Andy’s a national hero. He’s phenomenal and a treasure back home.”
The British tennis fans have endured a rollercoaster of emotions watching Murray over the years. Tonight, they will celebrate across the country. It has been a long time coming.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
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