Wimbledon 2016: Andy Murray, champion once again at ‘my most important tournament’
Andy Murray wins his second Wimbledon title with a straight-sets victory over Milos Raonic in the final
It may have been cloudy overhead and humid at court level, but the crowds were arriving early—earlier than the sunny Saturday that ushered in one very special women’s final, one captivating French men’s final, and a joyous sixth doubles victory for two Williams sisters.
For final Sunday was promising to be another historic day at Wimbledon’s All England Club, another day when one of the best British men’s player ever to pick up a racket would attempt to rewrite the records books.
Just by getting to the final, Andy Murray had taken the record for most ever Major finals by a British man, 11, beating Fred Perry’s 80-year record. When Murray won the US Open in 2012, he was the first British man to win a Major since Perry in 1936, and it was the same story when he won here in 2013. As for Olympic gold, a British man had not won a medal of any colour since 1908—and Murray did it on the most patriotic stage of all: Centre Court, Wimbledon, 2012.
Now he was aiming to be the first British man to win multiple titles at Wimbledon—since Perry, also 80 years ago.
And for the first time in all those 11 finals, he did not have to face world No1 Novak Djokovic or No3 Roger Federer.
Murray has always been far from oblivious to the history he pursues, but these days, he perhaps carries the burden of expectation more lightly, and has a perspective from which to enjoy it more.
He told the BBC: “Maybe I’m now more excited than when I was younger. The tournaments start to mean more to you the older you get, and you start to appreciate the history of the events probably more as you get older.”
Now a father, he has more in his life than the pursuit of records, yet his work ethic, his constant striving for improvement, and tireless work for many different charities, have won just as many fans as his record-making.
His latest effort a self improvement, though, was the recruitment again of Ivan Lendl, who oversaw Murray’s first Grand Slam victories and Olympic gold. It had been, it appeared, a coaching marriage made in heaven, and after two years apart for Lendl to pursue other interests, Murray scored the coup of enticing him back for the latest phase of his tennis journey.
That Lendl’s first gig was at Queen’s, where Murray bounced straight from his best ever clay season to a record fifth Queen’s title, was probably a coincidence, but already Murray looked more relaxed. As he said this week:
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I obviously had the best years of my career with [Lendl]… There’s no guarantees that I win on Sunday, but I obviously wanted to work with Ivan again to try to help me win these events. That’s the goal.”
Murray seems, just as he did the last time he worked with Lendl, more focused, more aggressive, more confident—again, no coincidence, surely:
“The information I get from him, the psychological help that I get from having him around, being able to chat to him at these events, before the big matches makes a difference.
As it happens, that first tournament back together at Queen’s ended in a title contest between Murray and Milos Raonic, a replica of this imminent final. And as it happens, that had been a close contest, with Murray having to fight back from a set and a break down.
Just as telling, the two men’s first match of the year saw Murray come back from two sets to one down in a thrilling five-setter in the Australian Open semis. So there was not doubt that the powerful, ever-improving No7 in the world, who had beaten Roger Federer in an intense five-set semi-final two days ago, was going to be as tough as nails.
Raonic had records of his own at stake. Already he was the first Canadian man into a Major final having made the semis here two years ago, as well as the semis in Melbourne in January.
The 6ft 5in 25-year-old had honed himself into a formidable force, with over 150 aces at the tournament, many served in excess of 140mph. And like Murray, ahead of the grass season, he had turned to one of the best players of the Open era, John McEnroe—supplementing an already strong team containing another Grand Slam champion, Carlos Moya.
The influence of the former three-time Wimbledon champion on the Raonic mindset and tactics was also clear very quickly. The big Canadian was readily coming to the net, and striking the ball confidently when he got there. And he credited McEnroe with a more confident outlook, too.
Murray was certainly under no illusions: “Milos is a very tough opponent. He’s played very well on the grass this year and has earned his right to the final by beating one of the best, if not the best player, ever at this event. So he deserves to be there.”
There was, of course, another factor in the equation: The home crowd, and the roar that went to greet Murray on to Centre Court must have made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. It set the tone for the match.
Murray’s returning immediately got the reward of a break point in the third game, but Raonic showed what his tactics would be: a big serve and smash and he held, and followed with a love hold.
But Murray was white hot, and picked up the big serves to return with interest, sliced and diced, used angles and touch, and drew a volley error to get the break in the seventh game.
Murray held, despite racing clouds and glaring sun making the conditions challenging. He was troubled by his ball toss, but held from deuce, and served it out at 6-4 in 40 minutes.
Murray had been exceptional in receiving, and as Raonic afterwards said, his movement was also outstanding. The Canadian scored just one ace in the set—and would make only eight in the match having averaged around 24 per match in the tournament thus far.
Raonic opened the second set with his only double fault of the match, but this would be a tight set. Murray got a chance to break in seventh game with a chiselled backhand up the line. And the pressure that Murray kept applying produced two more chances, first with a blistering cross-court backhand pass, then another forehand pass. He hit a 141mph serve and held, and headed to a tie-break.
Once again, point by point, Murray made life impossible for his big opponent, and with each attempt to come to the net, he faced either a challenging low volley or was passed. In a flash, Murray was 5-1 up with a backhand winner, and served it out, 7-6(3).
Still Murray had not faced a break point nor served a double fault, while he had kept Raonic to just four aces after an hour and three-quarters of play.
Murray did open the third set with a double fault, while Raonic cranked up his serve a notch—though even a 141mph delivery came back from Murray. The Canadian continued to play bravely, and had headed to the net 63 times by 3-3 in the third set, and made 38 points there. He pulled off two cracking serve-and-volley winners, as well, and finally pressed Murray into two errors in the fifth game: His reward, two break points.
But Murray’s mental resolve took him to deuce, and he called on an already raucous crowd to celebrate with him. Raonic now looked a little tight on serve, but ran down a drop and lob to hold for 4-4, and a love hold on either side took them to another tie-break.
Remarkably, Murray dominated the big server again, going 5-0. A forehand winner took it to 6-1, and one more forehand drew a final error from Raonic to seal victory for Murray, 7-6(2).
Murray’s serving had matched the Canadian’s across the board, on aces and on overall winners. But at the same time he had made just 12 unforced errors in the entire match. It had been, in short, a tour de force of concentration, a tactical masterclass, a Grand Slam-worthy performance.
As Centre Court rose, Murray fell to his knees, head in hands, a Wimbledon champion for the second time and a Grand Slam champion for a third.
Then back on his feet, he threw his racket into the crowd, raised his fingers to the sky, then sat and wept.
He had been watched by fans who queued all night, fans who got lucky in the draw, and thousands more who sat for hours on Henman Hill. Silverstone, where the British Grand Prix was taking place today, came to a standstill to celebrate, and even the ranks of media joined the standing ovation. Last but not least, the Royal Box, packed not just royalty but Wimbledon champions Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, applauded.
Murray held back the tears just long enough to thank his supporters and congratulate his opponent.
“This is the most important tournament for me every year. I’ve had some great moments here but also some tough losses, and the wins feel extra special because of the tough losses. And yes, I’m going make sure I enjoy winning this one. Last time I was so relieved, there was so much stress and pressure, I didn’t get as much a chance!”
For what it’s worth, not long afterwards, the famously expressionless Lendl was filmed beaming alongside Jamie Delgado. Asked if he would be back in the Murray’s box at next year’s Wimbledon, he grinned again: “I certainly hope so!”
Murray has, it seems, made even Lendl a very happy man, and one who this time has no intention of leaving.