London • From the lawns of Wimbledon to the lochs of Scotland, all of Britain can celebrate.
Andy Murray made it possible Sunday, winning his country’s hallowed tennis tournament to become the first British man in 77 years to raise the champion’s trophy at the All England Club.
Yes, this was history, and Murray’s 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over top-seeded Novak Djokovic was a fitting close to nearly eight decades of British frustration in its own backyard: A straight-setter, yes, but a hard-fought, 3-hour, 9-minute affair filled with long, punishing rallies and a final game that may have felt like another 77 years, with Murray squandering three match points before finally putting it away after four deuces.
Certainly, the endgame must have felt like torture to the 15,000 watching on Centre Court, the thousands more watching on a big-screen TV on the grounds and, of course, the millions of British watching on TV.
“Imagine playing it,” Murray said in his on-court interview.
But he closed it out on this cloudless, 80-degree day on tennis’ most famous court. He put his name beside that of Fred Perry, the last British man to win Wimbledon, back in 1936.
Those words don’t have to be written again.
“He’s someone that I’ve obviously never met, but is quite relevant in my career really,” Murray said.
The second-seeded Murray beat the best in Djokovic — top-ranked and a six-time Grand Slam tournament winner known for both a mental and physical fitness built to handle what he faced Sunday: A crowd full of overheated partisans rooting against him, to say nothing of Murray himself.
“The atmosphere was incredible for him. For me, not so much, but this is what I expected,” Djokovic said.
Since falling to Roger Federer in the final last year, Murray had shed some baggage by winning the Olympic gold medal on Centre Court, then following that with his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open.
The U.S. Open victory ended a 76-year drought for the British in the Grand Slams. This one? Even sweeter.
“The pinnacle of tennis,” Murray called the Wimbledon win. “I worked so hard in that last game, the hardest few points I ever played in my life.”
When he finally wrapped it up, he let his racket fall to the turf, took his hat off and pumped his fist toward the crowd. Later, he climbed to the guest box where his girlfriend, Kim Sears, and his coach, Ivan Lendl, were among those sweating this one out.
Born a week apart in May 1987 — Djokovic in Belgrade when it was part of Yugoslavia, and Murray in Glasgow, Scotland — these top two players came up together through the elite junior-tennis ranks and are now building the best tennis rivalry of the 2010s. This was their third meeting in the last four Grand Slam finals, and all have been riveting affairs. Murray won a five-setter at the U.S. Open; Djokovic won in four at Australia; and this time, a three-setter at Wimbledon that felt like something more.
Djokovic went up a break in both the second and third sets and, both times, appeared to have wrested at least a bit of control and quieted a crowd that included Prime Minister David Cameron.
But Murray dug his way out both times. In the second set, he set up break point with a sharply angled forehand that Djokovic couldn’t handle, and the Serb responded with a double-fault, one of four on the day.
In the third set, Murray lost four straight games to fall behind 4-2, but got the break back and — eventually — closed it out by winning the last four games as the roars from every corner of Centre Court grew louder.
“The atmosphere today was different to what I’ve experienced in the past,” Murray said. “It was different to last year’s final, for sure. And then, the end of the match, that was incredibly loud, very noisy. I’ve been saying it all week, but it does make a difference. Especially in a match as tough as that one, where it’s extremely hot, brutal, long rallies, tough games. They help you get through it.”