Brave Scot wins hearts despite yielding yet again to genius
Andy Murray choked back tears on Centre Court yesterday after losing to an opponent he regards as "one of the greatest athletes of all time".
This was the first Wimbledon final in 74 years to have featured a British man and although Murray succumbed 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4, he pushed Roger Federer all the way, bringing the Centre Court crowd to its feet with his courage.
"I'm getting closer," were the only words Murray could utter before his emotions overcame him in front of almost 15,000 on Centre Court and millions of television viewers. The Scot has often been criticised for his perceived coldness but after his overwhelming effort here his reputation as an unemotional automaton was entirely misplaced.
"Can I just take a second," he asked his interviewer as he pinched his eyes in an effort to regain his composure. "Right, I'm going to try this and it's not going to be easy," he said. But then he broke down like his partner, Kim Sears, in the players' gallery.
Having eventually congratulated Federer for his seventh Wimbledon title and for spending as many weeks at No 1 in the world than any other player in tennis history, equalling Pete Sampras's record on both counts, Murray thanked the British public for supporting him.
"Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon and how tough it is," he said. "It's not the people watching, they make it so much easier to play. The support's been incredible. So, thank you."
Murray's path to the final had been cleared after Rafael Nadal lost unexpectedly in the second round, which prompted many to say this would be his best chance ever to win a Grand Slam.
"Well, this chance is gone," he said. "I can't take today's match back, obviously. But was it my best chance? I don't know.
"You know, I lost to a guy that's now won this tournament seven times and is No 1 in the world. So if that's your best chance, then. . . We're talking about one of the greatest athletes of all time here."
Murray draws inspiration from the basketball player, LeBron James, who lost in two NBA finals before winning it. "He said that he's having to go through a lot of nightmares before he reaches his dream," said Murray. "To me, I think I'm in a similar situation right now. When you lose, it's tough to take, but you need to show strength of character to come back from it. Hopefully one day you get there."
Murray had won the first set with Centre Court open to the sunshine; but when the rains fell and the roof was closed, the skies fell in on his attempt to be crowned a Grand Slam champion.
Federer's 20 indoor titles mean he has won more under a roof than the other top-four players in the world combined. Murray has won nine, Novak Djokovic five and Nadal only one.
"The way the court plays is a bit different," said Murray. "I think he served very well when the roof closed. He served better. I think he's not lost an indoor match since 2010, so he plays well under the roof. He played very, very well, the last two sets especially."
Despite the disappointment, Murray has plenty from which to draw heart, particularly as, at his fourth attempt, this was the first time he has won a set in a Grand Slam final. "I played better this time in the final, and that's the main thing," he said.
"It's not an easy tournament for British players in many ways, but I think I dealt with all of the extra things away from the tournament better than maybe I had done in the past.
"I'm still playing better tennis, trying to improve, which is all I can do." Now Murray will take a few days off to take stock. "I won't be on the court next week, that's for sure," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)