The time was 5:24pm. Three championship points had come and gone. Three break points had been valiantly fought off. The tension was palpable; the crowd were visibly struggling to draw breath. But when the world number one could only find the net on the fourth championship point, Wimbledon erupted.
Today Andy Murray achieved a life dream. In what is rapidly becoming the biggest rivalry in tennis, the British number one defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 to put to rest the ghost of Fred Perry – Wimbledon’s last male champion 77 years ago.
It was just a year to the day that Murray won his first set in a grand slam final. At the time that was a milestone. But so much has changed since then. The Scot has gone from strength to strength, and today he outplayed, outfought, and outwitted the world’s best player. He had to dig deep, deeper than ever before, finding himself down 2-4 in both the second and third set. But both times he showed his incredible resilience, and Djokovic had no answer.
The match begun with a 20 shot rally that typifies matches between these two. It was Murray who was applying all the early pressure, and despite being unable to take advantage of three break points in the opening game, he continued to take Djokovic out of his comfort zone and eventually broke in game three. But as is often the case in matches between these two, Djokovic bounced straight back to draw the scores level.
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The Serb didn’t seem to be particularly comfortable however, and a loose service game at 3-3 allowed Murray to break again – this time to love. And although Djokovic threatened once again to level instantly, the second seed battled off three break points for a mighty hold.
The world number one was often looking to the drop shot in a bid to throw Murray off his game, but the Scot’s incredible speed and strength allowed him to punish the Serb time and time again. Murray served it out to love, taking the first set 6-4.
However in set two the British number one was unable to maintain the high level of intensity, and Djokovic began to find his range – breaking Murray in the third game as he looked to find a way back into the match.
The Serb quickly found himself 4-1 up, and was threatening to run away with the set. But Murray’s resilience came to the fore, and having dug himself out of trouble to keep himself within touching distance, he found another gear. Djokovic fended off two break-back points, but a scorching forehand at deuce left the world number one on the floor - and centre court on their feet. And then the Serb crumbled, serving up his first double fault of the match to allow Murray back into it.
A resurgent Murray battled off more break points in the next game, and eventually levelled with a delightful drop shot for 4-4.
The Brit was on the charge, and after losing a vital point at 5-5, Djokovic lost his head. The Serb launched an angry tirade at umpire Mohamed Lahyani, adamant that Murray’s return had gone long (it was later proved to have caught the baseline). And the Scot, sensing his moment, raised his game another notch to set up yet more break points. Djokovic netted on the second, and suddenly the Brit was serving for the second set.
Murray kept his head whilst everyone else was losing theirs, and served it out with an ace to put himself two sets to the good.
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Djokovic needed to regroup, but the Olympic champion refused to relent, and a break right at the start of the third set left the stadium in near euphoria. But just when the Murray fans were daring to dream, Djokovic found his game. The Serb held from 0-30 in his next game, and then took advantage of a loss of concentration from the British number one to break back.
The tide was turning. Suddenly it was Murray who was looking jaded, and another error-strewn game handed Djokovic a 4-2 lead – making it four games in a row for the Serb. The Brit seemed to be falling apart and the home crowd was fearing the worst.
But this is not the Murray of old; the Murray who allows himself to get frustrated at the first sign of trouble or berates himself for every miss. This is the new Murray - the US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist. The Brit kept his cool and immediately responded, dragging Djokovic all over the court to break straight back.
And now nothing could stop him. At 4-4 an emphatic smash gave Murray 15-30, and an unbelievable running forehand pass gave the Scot break points. Djokovic, usually so assured in these situations, could find nothing in his arsenal to save himself. The Serb netted. Murray was serving for the title.
The crowd were beside themselves. An unreturnable at 30-0 was greeted by a tumultuous roar and Murray had three championship points. It seemed inevitable.
Nobody could have predicted what would happen next.
A Djokovic volley saved the first, and a blistering return the second. Suddenly it was 40-30. Surely Murray would finish it here? Another rally ensued, ending with a visibly tense Murray clipping a forehand beyond the baseline. And after netting on the next point, it was now break point Djokovic. What had moments ago seemed a foregone conclusion had turned into a desperate dog fight.
No-one dared breathe. The Brit saved one, and then another, and then a third. The end was in touching distance, but Murray needed to find a way to drag himself across. And then – a moment of Murray magic. Going back to his very roots, the Scot defended against a Djokovic onslaught, retrieved a smash and then chased down a touch volley before lashing it past the Serb. Championship point number four.
And this time there was no mistake. A big serve set up the point and Djokovic duly netted. It was over. Murray sprinted towards the press box, pure elation etched into his face. Dunblane’s finest then fell to his knees, unable to take in the magnitude of what he had just achieved. Wimbledon has a British men’s champion once again.
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