Partisan crowds at tournaments is nothing new, but Wimbledon was always considered the ‘classy’ major. The French are boorish, the Aussies obnoxious and the Americans, well, you get where I’m going with this.
The folks at Wimbledon were above such behavior, or at least that was the general sentiment. The Olympics began to change that notion, where Roger Federer became visibly irritated by the blatantly pro-Murray crowd.
Could you blame them? Like fans of any miserable franchise, the British were constantly reminded of Fred Perry and their almost eight decade long title drought at the All England Club.
To make matters worse was the hilarious prospect–at least for the rest of us–of Scotland declaring their independence next year. Murray finally winning the title in 2015, only to not be officially British, is the stuff spite obsessed sports fans dream of.
Djokovic played the role of heel well, berating umpire Mohamed Lahyani–who had a bit of a howler–while also managing to show his displeasure with a raucous crowd that did all they could to will Murray to victory. Djokovic manages to play better when the crowd doesn’t want him to. It happened against Federer at the US Open two years ago. It happened on Friday against Juan Martin Del Potro.
Murray’s improvement over the last 24 months has been remarkable. Often chastised for playing too defensively, he knew that wouldn’t work against Djokovic. In their meeting in Australia earlier this year, Murray failed to break the Serb once.
Within three games Murray had a look at seven break point opportunities. After failing to consolidate the break with a hold in the following game, Murray settled in. The heat and the importance of fitness were mentioned repeatedly by brothers McEnroe and for good reason. Djokovic had played a marathon semi-final against Juan Martin Del Potro on Friday while Murray enjoyed a relatively straight forward win over Jerzy Janowicz.
Djokovic’s rise to the top of men’s tennis has been made possible by a freakish commitment to improving his fitness. No player outworks him on the court. Considering how far he’s come in that regard, from fielding criticism about his lack of desire to becoming the most tenacious player on tour, it was a remarkable feat. Unfortunately on this day he didn’t have the same jump. After working diligently on backhand shots down the line in practice the shot failed to show up for him at the most critical junctures.
It was looking grim for Nole after a late break of service gave Murray a two set lead. At 2-0, 30-love in the third it seemed academic. You have only yourself to blame if you thought Djokovic would go away quietly.
He broke back to get on level terms, winning four straight games and defiantly pumping his fist at the nervous spectators who sensed this wasn’t going to be easy. It never is for them. Not here at least. Then the break came. Wayne Rooney began hyperventilating. David Cameron’s slick shades were eschewed, opting for the ‘oh my god, please no, this isn’t happening’ look that sunglasses cannot hide.
As the pessimists among us will know, this line of thinking is hard to avoid when you’re used to failing more often than not. Murray’s response to adversity was an indication of how far he has come. He didn’t wilt. Scotland’s Andy Murray became British again, winning the next three games and served for the match.
Every so often sport provide moments like this. Goosebump inducing, heart racing events that are almost as unbearable as they are fascinating. Today, on the most hallowed ground in the sport, we got another one. If there ever was a game that summed up Wimbledon and its emotionally crippling relationship with the nation, this was it. Four break points, some premature celebrating and 56,000 heart attacks later it actually happened.
Andy Murray is the 2013 Wimbledon Champion. Rule, Britannia.