Why, after 77 years, would it be easy?
Future generations of British sports fans who look back at clips of the 2013 men’s final at Wimbledon will see a cloudless 80-degree day, a Royal Box with a beaming prime minister in the front row, a straight-set scoreline and that rarest of rarities: a homegrown champion. But they’ll miss one crucial element of this seemingly idyllic scene on Centre Court: the unbearable tension.
That’s what filled the arena, as well as its 15,000 occupants, as Murray attempted, and attempted, and attempted to finish off Novak Djokovic and become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936. A few minutes earlier, as Murray had walked out to serve for the championship at 5-4 in the third set, the crowd had stood and chanted his name as lustily as anything has ever been chanted in those polite environs. When he won the first three points over a demoralized Djokovic, the atmosphere became outright giddy. Shouts and laughter echoed through the stadium as Murray tossed the ball to serve at 40-0—the moment of triumph had surely come at last.
But anticipation quickly turned to dread when Djokovic, as only he could, refused to surrender the final point and let the celebrations begin. By the time 40-0 had melted to deuce, and then break point for Djokovic, a fearful silence reigned. The only thing you could hear at Murray’s end of the court was the sound of him huffing and puffing as he took the towel from the ball boy.
“It’s the hardest few points I’ve had to play in my life,” a relieved Murray would say later. “My head was kind of everywhere.”
Would the Curse of Fred Perry, the last British man to win Wimbledon, survive even this? If you had followed Murray’s career for any length of time, you may have suspected that this moment of crisis would arrive, and that in the end he would overcome it.