The best comeback since Seabiscuit!
One of the most famous hoodoos in tennis history is finally over after Andy Murray defeated world number one Novak Djokovic to win the 2013 Wimbledon men’s title in a pulsating championship match.
British tennis had suffered significantly since Fred Perry won Wimbledon in 1936, but that all came to an end as Murray played one of the matches of his life to defeat a tired and frustrated Djokovic in straight sets to add to the Olympic Gold Medal and the US Open title that he won last year.
Much has been talked about the rivalry between the two 26-year-olds – they are separated in age by just one week, with Murray being the elder – who used to train together as teenagers.
Their rivalry is also considered to be one of the most fiercest in men’s tennis today – they have now met 19 times, with Murray’s victory being his eighth over the Serb, and second in a Grand Slam final, tying them at two-all in that category.
Murray, of course, entered the championship match having had the experience of being in the Wimbledon final twelve months ago, when he lost in four sets to Roger Federer. Despite that loss, Murray won over British hearts with his teary-driven interview.
“Everyone talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon, but it’s not the people – they make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible”, Murray said this time twelve months ago.
This time, Murray was the victor and he was still refusing to believe that he had actually won Wimbledon.
“Winning Wimbledon, I can’t get my head around that. I still can’t believe it’s happened”, Murray said immediately after it was made official that he had ended Britain’s 77-year Wimbledon drought of male winners.
It must be remembered that Murray almost didn’t get to where he is now.
The Scot found himself two sets down against Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals and was bound for his earliest exit at the All England Club since 2008, when another Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, sent him home in straight sets.
If it had not been for the crowd and his fighting spirit, Djokovic might be the one holding the golden trophy.
Instead, the Serb had to settle for the runners-up plate, meaning that a loss in a future Australian Open final would see him complete the “Career runner-up Slam” – something that Roger Federer has “achieved”, along with his Career Grand Slam.
Let’s get to the match itself – Murray played almost the perfect game, hitting winners and smashing down aces at will as Djokovic wilted in the heat, to the point that, at a crucial point nearing the end of the first set, a line judge missed a shot by Murray, which landed outside of the box and Djokovic let the umpire know about it.
It was after that moment in which Murray would break Djokovic to go 5-4 up – from there, he served out to love and had the first set in the bag.
The following two sets would follow a similar script as Murray required a break to edge ahead 6-5 and 5-4 up in the second and third sets respectively.
During the second set, the heat and the tension started to get the better of Djokovic as the 2011 champion started to wilt. Clearly frustrated and still suffering the effects from his lengthy semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro, he then surrendered the second set, which went 7-5 in Murray’s favour.
Even from two sets up Murray was still not safe.
Wimbledon remained the only tournament in which he has ever lost a match from two sets up, when he crumbled against David Nalbandian on his Wimbledon debut in 2005.
No man had come from two sets to love down to win Wimbledon since Henri Cochet in 1927, and no man had come from two sets to love down to win a Grand Slam title since Gaston Gaudio upset Guillermo Coria at the 2004 French Open.
Murray would have also been aware that Djokovic came from this position down to force a fifth set at last year’s US Open. A toilet break, Murray recalls, allowed him to restore his focus at the beginning of that fifth set.
The Scot would ensure that there was no concentration relapse when he broke early to go 2-0 up. But from there, Djokovic started to make a contest out of it, breaking twice to go 4-2 up and a chance to serve to go 5-2 up.
But then Murray would break himself to get the set back on serve, and a subsequent hold saw him level at 4-all in the third set.
Murray then broke to take a 5-4 lead and thus the wait for a British male champion almost came to its long-awaited conclusion.
Murray then served out to gain three championship points, but in true Djokovic style, the world number one would deny Murray each time with a series of winners. After forcing deuce, Djokovic then earned three separate break points, but Murray would wipe them all out with a series of desperate winners combined with Djokovic errors.
Murray then served out to gain a fourth championship point – and when Djokovic netted a backhand, the longest drought in Grand Slam tennis history officially ended.
Following the final shot of the match, Twitter then went into meltdown as Murray fever started to spread through not just Wimbledon, but also social media.
It was also totally different scenes from this time twelve months ago as Murray basked in the glory of winning Wimbledon – something that (of all active players) Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Lleyton Hewitt have experienced in their careers.
One must now wonder what the impact of Murray’s Wimbledon title will have.
Over the last few years, Laura Robson and Heather Watson have started to develop their careers in their own right, and not surprisingly, this has come on the back of the ongoing success that Murray is experiencing right now.
Robson will crack the world’s top 30 for the first time in her career after she reached the fourth round at the All England Club for the first time, while Watson did reach the third round last year but was a first round loser this year against Madison Keys.
Britain’s progress in the years following Tim Henman’s retirement almost exactly emulates that of Serbia’s progress in the game many years ago.
Djokovic himself started to make progress through the men’s sport in 2007, and his rise was complimented by that of Serbian women Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, the latter of whom would win the 2008 French Open, after Djokovic became the first Serb to win a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier that year.
While Djokovic is currently on his crusade of success, the women have continually disappointed at the big tournaments – both the women were second round casualties this year.
Also, while Djokovic went on to win the Australian Open earlier this year, neither woman did well, though that was not caused by the fact that they were drawn to meet in the third round. The victor of that match would have lost to Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round anyway.
But now, back to the main topic – and it will be Andy Murray whose name is etched into Grand Slam history forever with his first Wimbledon title. He can now live out the rest of his life with the title as “the last British man to win Wimbledon” until someone else can take his title in the future years.
His decision to miss Roland Garros has well and truly paid off. He becomes the second man to win a Grand Slam tournament after missing the previous one; Rafael Nadal won the French Open after missing the Australian Open earlier in the year due to a knee injury.
He also becomes the first man since Nadal in 2008 to win the Queen’s/Wimbledon double in the same year.
Now, he will head into the defence of his US Open title as a dual-Grand Slam champion, with all the weight of Britain finally off his shoulders.
Long live Sir Andrew Barron Murray, 2013 Wimbledon Champion.