Friday 23 February 2018

Murray regal in second Wimbledon crowning

Andy Murray celebrates winning the Men's Singles Final on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Championships. Photo: Andy Couldridge
Andy Murray celebrates winning the Men's Singles Final on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Championships. Photo: Andy Couldridge

Paul Hayward

Remember that day Andy Murray won Wimbledon? Make room in your memory, because it just happened again - raising the 2013 champion from possible one-hit wonder to double master of Centre Court.

To win Wimbledon once would have frozen Murray in time as the man who exorcised Fred Perry's ghost after 77 years.

It would have trapped him in the time capsule of the day he beat Novak Djokovic in this arena. History might have locked him in with Lleyton Hewitt, Richard Krajicek, Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Stich - Wimbledon champions all, but winners who never threatened to reach those heights again.

The difference between winning Wimbledon once and winning it again is huge. And few would bet against Murray matching Perry's three singles title wins now.

To judge his career against a yardstick from the 1930s might seem a little passé. But it helps to have new targets now that he has erased any doubt about his pedigree.

Already Murray's Wimbledon record surpasses that of Perry, because his two wins have come in a golden age.

Forget flannelled trousers and F Scott Fitzgerald. Murray has battled his way through the era of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, never once succumbing to the temptation to pick up easy money as the world's fourth-best player.

Nobody would have blamed him for taking that road. Tim Henman kept bouncing off Pete Sampras. Murray has collided with three legends of the game.

Read More: Andy Murray wins second Wimbledon title in style after dominant final display against Milos Raonic

His golden run between the summer of 2012 - when he won Olympic gold and the US Open title - and the Wimbledon Championships of 2013 changed the story.

Murray had become a dual Grand Slam winner. But was that the end of it, or would he come with another charge at greatness?

The 2013 victory was epic, draining and cathartic. It rescued British tennis from annual embarrassment. This win was smooth, clinical and as one-sided a final as you are likely to see in a Grand Slam.

The only awkward moment was Murray's extraordinary tirade at his own support team, for reasons he later refused to specify.

As members of royal family marched on to the court, the Union Jack was draped over the trophy presentation table and the old formality had been restored, all the while Murray sat weeping into his towel.


This juxtaposition was telling because it showed how much successive Grand Slam final defeats have taken out of him, and how much this second Centre Court coronation was a vindication of the colossal effort he has put in.

Though the scoreboard margins were small - 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 - Murray displayed immense authority against Milos Raonic, who was largely out of his depth if determined.

Raonic's big weapon, his wall-thwacking serve, was nullified by Murray's consistently brilliant returning.

The older man was blessed with a far greater range of strokes. A mature multiple Grand Slam finalist was dispatching someone who was a rookie at this highest level, showing him who was boss in a second-set tie-break of dazzling skill.

Murray has spent too long grappling with Djokovic to pass up this chance to beat a No 6 seed in a Wimbledon finale: an opponent with eight ATP tour titles to his own 38.

Read More: Lendl's cold analysis driving Murray's red-hot revival

A dubious honour was stalking the Scot. In defeat, he would have become the first man in the open era to lose the first three Grand Slam finals of a calendar year.

Before yesterday Murray had played in 10 finals and lost eight of them. Djokovic, who departed early here, had become his nemesis once again.

A cynic might say Murray simply exploited Federer's semi-final loss to Raonic and Djokovic's shock defeat by Sam Querrey before the first week had been completed.

But why would anyone want to downgrade his magnificent achievement here?

Anyway, in this kind of shape, he would have fancied his chances against either Federer or Djokovic.

There was an intense focus and precision in his game, best expressed by his counter-punching of Raonic's 140mph-plus first serves.

"I'm just really proud that I managed to do it again after a lot of tough losses in the latter stages of the slams over the last couple of years," Murray said.

"To do it twice in an event where there is a lot of pressure on me to perform - I'm very proud of how I've handled that over the years.

"Obviously a lot of questions would get asked of me after those losses. But you know, failing's not terrible."

For some people it is. It burns them up. They settle for what they have, or accept their limitations, or sink into bitterness.

Murray never did this. He always looked for the route out of a painful defeat. There is more to come, too. Anyone can see that.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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