Can You Say "Omen?"

Saturday, July 07, 2012 /by

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WIMBLEDON, England—The word "omen" is on the lips of countless people throughout Great Britain, because Jonny Marray (sounds like "Murray," sort of) has become the first British male to win a singles or mens' doubles champion at Wimbledon since 1936. And that also happens to be the same year Fred Perry became the last British man to win the singles championship for which Andy Murray will play Roger Federer tomorrow.

Wait. It's even stranger than that.

Marray's partner here was Frederik Nielsen, whose grandfather was the last Danish man in any Grand Slam final, way back in 1955. They won the title today, beating fifth-seeded Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-3.

And that's not all.

This was the first tour-level tournament Marray and Nielsen have played together, and just their fourth event together (although the two have been friends for some time). And with a career-high singles ranking of No. 215, Marray has been what a journeyman might describe as a wannabe. A 31-year-old from Liverpool, Marray has made one singles final in his career—that in a sub-tour Challenger event. Entering the tournament, he was ranked ninth in Great Britain, not good enough to merit a wild card into the singles draw of Wimbledon.

But this was no fluke win set up by unexpected turns of events, either, Marray and Nielsen upset defending champs and second-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan in the semifinals; Lindstedt and Tecau were in the final for the third year in a row. 

"Jonny Marray is a rock," commentator and former player John Lloyd said late in the fifth set, hard put to suppress the astonishment that had gradually crept into his voice—and remained there until the final point was secured via a sharply angled backhand volley by Nielsen. 

Marray and Nielsen were still stunned when they did the obligatory interview with the BBC immediately after the on-court trophy presentation. "I don't know what to say," Marray said, turning to his partner. "Freddy?"

"Yeah. It's tough to put into words," Nielsen agreed. He later admitted that he experienced waves of goosebumps while realizing his lifetime dream of playing on Centre Court. That's not always conducive to playing your best tennis, but the hand of fate seemed to rest heavily on the underdog's side of the scale once again.

There was a moment of great sportsmanship in the critical third-set tiebreaker when Marray gave up a point his team won because he inadvertently touched the net before the point was over. "Freddy hit a great serve," Marray explained. "As I hit the volley I followed through and touched the net." He paused. "You own up to it, don't you?"

A reporter said, "You don't often see that in professional sports."

"You don't always see us winning Wimbledon in professional sports," Nielsen replied, without missing a beat.

Both men denied thinking about the various historic or even surreal dimensions of what they were accomplishing.

"I was just focusing on trying to perform and play well," Marray admitted. He went on to say he hopes Murray can win tomorrow, too. 

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