WIMBLEDON, England—If we are about to embark on a new era of men’s tennis, one ruled by a new duopoly, this edition of Wimbledon could not have sent a stronger signal.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, for years the clear pace-setters, both lost before the third round. Novak Djokovic penetrated the final round of a Grand Slam tournament for the ninth time in the last 12 majors. But the clearest indicator that we are moving on from the past is that Andy Murray, born in Great Britain, has won Wimbledon.
If Fred Perry, the last British man before Murray to win the illustrious title, got his own clothing line for his achievements, Murray deserves one, too. Perhaps the logo should be of the Scot in full stride, running toward a distant ball, ready to pounce and end the point with a forehand winner. He did that so many times today, tracking down any Djokovic shot that wasn’t perfectly struck. It showed in the stats: Djokovic hit five fewer winners than Murray (31 to 36) and made 40 unforced errors (Murray had 21). It showed in the straight-sets score, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. But it didn’t show in the final game, an extremely tense couple of minutes that tested Murray's nerves to the limit and Britain’s complex one last time.
“I have no idea what happened,” Murray, after accepting the prized golden trophy, told the BBC’s Sue Barker about the final point. What happened was, it was Murray’s fourth championship point, having lost a 40-0 lead a game after breaking Djokovic. He had nearly taken the title on the first try, hitting a strong serve that Djokovic did very well to get back. But the world No. 1 won that point, then a second with a backhand return winner off a second serve, and finally a third when a Murray backhand sailed long. You could feel the tension in a near-empty press room; I cannot imagine what Murray was feeling inside.
But to his and his nation’s great relief, Murray saved three break points in the memorable game, then claimed victory when a Djokovic backhand collided with the net. Murray crashed to the court, tears flowed from his eyes—and throughout the All England Club—and the once unthinkable had been achieved.
That final game, along with two other moments of resistance from Djokovic—the Serb led 4-1 in the second set and 4-2 in the third—were the exceptions in a three-hour and nine-minute match mostly controlled by Murray. He hit the ball much more consistently than Djokovic, but not without a lack of assertiveness. That, along with Djokovic’s seeming inability to hit through the crowd favorite, led to a first set which saw Murray earn eight break points. In the entire Australian Open final these two contested back in January, Murray earned four break points (hat tip to Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times).
Murray converted two break chances to win a physically demanding, 59-minute first set on a hot day in SW19. Djokovic had a towel wrapped around his neck during many changeovers, and as he’s done frequently this fortnight, got cozy with the court, whether because of lost footing or Murray’s shotmaking. Whether that had anything to do with Djokovic’s rises and falls (this time, not in the literal sense) is unknown, but suffice it to say that Murray was relentless with his all-court abilities.
On occasion, Djokovic used a smart tactic on a day when grueling, baseline rallies were commonplace—he came to net, taking away Murray's options and rushing him. It helped Djokovic snag his first break-of-serve lead at 3-1, but he surrendered the advantage and gave Murray a chance to level the score by serving at 3-4. Murray saved two break points in this eighth game, reprising the effort he gave in the eighth game of the first set, when he saved four break points. Each of these holds was massive—and too often, the type of situation Djokovic failed to manage. Having been broken just six times in his first six matches, Djokovic was broken seven times today.
The final break of the second set was the one that might have broken Djokovic for good. Out of challenges and serving at 15-all, Djokovic engaged in a rally and saw a high Murray ball drop in front of him—and, in his opinion, land beyond the baseline. That would prove to be incorrect on a television replay, but not before an irate Djokovic let chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani have it: “Come on! What’s going on? The ball’s coming like this [motions with hands]—you’ve got to see that!”
Two points later, Djokovic was behind 5-6, and Murray would comfortably serve out the set at love.
When Murray broke Djokovic to open the third set, neither girlfriend Kim Sears nor the fans packing
Henman Hill Murray Mound could believe what was happening—it was a stunned silence. But this was a match where fans and players were best served by not riding the emotional rollercoaster, for momentum shifted quickly, despite the minimum, three-set duration. Djokovic would win four of the next five games, but Murray would make the last run, taking the final four. And then, the silence—and a 77-year drought—came to an end.
IBM is a proud sponsor and official technology partner for Wimbledon. For more information on this match, including the Keys to the Match, visit IBM's SlamTracker.