BRITISH No1 Andy Murray failed to fight back the tears that emerged from a defiant defeat after winning the hearts of a nation against Roger Federer in yesterday’s final at Wimbledon.
The Scot’s performance was as gutsy as his fate was cruel, but if he possessed a composure that had previously eluded in past grand slam finals, new world No1 Federer’s greater class and experience ultimately separated the two on an afternoon when hope was regardless renewed about Britain’s possession of a genuine grand slam winner.
In securing the match’s opening set, Murray had displayed the suitability in style that had inspired such a promising record over the Swiss but even though his play underlined the same dogged determination that had earned a first final at the All England club, the sport’s greatest ever player had yet another level to unlock from which he produced his latest landmark triumph with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 scoreline.
“I’m getting closer,” said Murray, the emotion in his voice as patent as the pride emitted from a loyal crowd towards the All England Club’s modern day hero. “I’m going to try. This is not going to be easy. Firstly I’d like to congratulate Roger.
“I was asked the other day: ‘Is this your best chance, Roger is 30 now?’ He’s not bad for a 30-year-old. He played a great tournament. I know he had some struggles with his back, but he showed what fight he had.
“He deserves it. I’ll try not to look at him as I’ll start [crying] again. Thanks to everyone who has supported me. You did a great job.
“And last of all to the crowd. Everyone always talks about the pressure of playing a Wimbledon and how tough it is. It’s not the people watching, you make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible. Thank you.
“I’d say that’s the best I’ve played in a slam final. I created chances, I went up a set.
“It was a long match. Even the last two sets, I still had chances. The game where I got broken in the third set was a very, very long game. I had a lot of game points.
“It wasn’t like I gave away bad games or stupid games and stuff. I played a good match. I made pretty good decisions for the most part, so I’m happy with that.
“I felt more comfortable this morning and before the match than I had done maybe in the previous slams.”
Murray’s other grand slam final defeats – in the 2008 US Open and the 2010 and 2011 Australian Opens – showed a player unprepared for the pressures associated with a Major final but yesterday afternoon that was simply never the case. During the week he spoke convincingly of dealing with the stresses that had built and so it proved when business truly began; this was a player ready to seize a place in history and to use his fans’ support.
For Federer, the deserved victory represents a record 286th week at the top of the world’s rankings, the equalling of American Pete Sampras’s seven Wimbledon titles and a dismissal of the criticism that suggested his best years had passed.
“To win 90 per cent of my matches throughout the year is impossible every single year,” he said. “So you’re always going to go through ups and downs.
“But I knew how close I was for the last few years, and some people didn’t quite see that maybe for different reasons. But I knew and I think the belief got me to victory.
I think it’s going to take much longer to understand what I was able to achieve today. It was crazy how it all happened under the circumstances. I played terrific.”
Federer had been uncharacteristically nervy in the match’s opening set but he thereafter settled to take control of play.
After levelling the match with a masterful backhand drop volley in the second, Federer took control of the third set – following a 35 minute break and the closing of the roof because of rain – to assume a lead that he at no point looked like conceding.
Murray remained tenacious – saving one of two Championship points in doing so – but was fighting to stay in the match and sealed his defeat when hooking an ambitious forehand into the tramlines.
Men’s singles winners
Roger Federer, seven titles
Pete Sampras, seven titles
Bjorn Borg, five titles
Rod Laver, four titles
Boris Becker, three titles
Fred Perry, three titles
John McEnroe, three titles
Jimmy Connors, two titles