Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to win his record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title and 17th Grand Slam. Federer’s victory ends a two-and-a-half-year drought at the majors and catapults him back to the world’s No. 1 ranking. “I never stopped believing, and I started playing more even though I have a family,” he said on court during the trophy presentation. “I have great momentum, great confidence, and it all came together. It’s just a magical moment for me.”
Adding a seventh Wimbledon trophy to his collection matches the record set by American Pete Sampras in 2000.
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A defeated Murray struggled to compose himself after the audience gave him a 50-second ovation. “I’m getting closer,” he cracked before asking the M.C. if he could take a moment to gather his thoughts. Visibly stirred, he tilted his head back and squeezed his nose in an apparent effort to hold back the floodgates. It was a rare outpouring of emotion for the 25-year-old Scot who now shares his coach Ivan Lendl’s record of losing his first four Grand Slam finals.
“I was getting asked the other day after I won my semifinal, ‘Is this your best chance? Roger is 30 now,'” Murray said. “He’s not bad for a 30-year-old … he showed what fight he still has in him, so congratulations. You deserve it.”
Murray, who lost in the semifinals in each of the past three years, had to cope with the weight of British expectations throughout the two-week tournament. On Friday he became the first British male to reach a Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938. Talks immediately turned to whether he could unseat Federer — the King of Grass — to become the first Briton to win the men’s singles title since Fred Perry in 1936.
The British media raised hopes by emphasizing Murray’s winning career record over Federer. Ahead of the final, Murray led their head-to-head matchups 8-7. But in their patriotic rush to build up Murray’s chances for success, they tended to omit the fact that all of their meetings had come on hard courts — undoubtedly Murray’s best surface — and that all of Murray’s victories occurred at lesser tournaments. When staring into a bigger spotlight, it was always Murray who got blindsided. Federer had won both Grand Slam encounters with Murray — the finals of the 2008 U.S. Open and the 2010 Australian Open — in straight sets.
Even so, Murray suggested that being the underdog relieved the strain of performing at home. “If you look at his record here over the past 10 years or so, it’s incredible,” he said after his semifinal win on Friday. “So the pressure that I would be feeling if it was against somebody else, I guess it would be different. But there will be less on me on Sunday, you know, because of who he is.”
Early in the match, it seemed like Murray may have been on to something. Although the underdog had yet to win a set in a Grand Slam final, it was the favored Federer who appeared nervous. During the opening game, the Swiss faulted on his first serve. Later, in an uncharacteristic mishit, he struck an overhead volley wide to give Murray the early break. That was just one of 16 unforced errors he committed in the set, compared with Murray’s five. Federer also seemed unusually cautious. He returned Murray’s second serve with an average speed of just 54 m.p.h. Murray hunted those returns down with ease, ultimately taking the set 6-4.
Federer managed to win the second set 7-5 with his opponent unable to convert any of the four break points that came his way. But the real turning point came after the rain forced officials to close the roof early in the third. Federer emerged from the 35-minute break with greater conviction and a steadier hand. Murray started to unravel. During the sixth game, which lasted a marathon 20 minutes, the Scot finally lost his cool. As he hit balls wide and, on at least two occasions, fell to the grass, he huffed and puffed and threw his racket down. Murray also wasted two challenges on balls that Hawk-Eye showed his opponent had hit squarely in.
Federer likely benefited from the closed roof, which favors big servers, and it didn’t do him any harm against Novak Djokovic during Friday’s semifinal either. In the absence of sun and wind, Federer went on the offensive, attacking the line to great effect. Murray didn’t earn a single break point, and Federer closed out the set with an ace. Despite some potential trouble at the start of the fourth set, the rest of the match was a one-sided, decidedly Swiss affair.
That dashed the hopes of millions rooting for a homegrown winner (it’s been suggested that the BBC audience would reach the 20 million mark, comfortably breaking the previous record). Coming into Sunday’s final, optimists suggested the stars had finally aligned for Murray to win his maiden Grand Slam title — and not merely because of his relatively straightforward journey from the first round to the final. On the eve of the men’s final, Englishman Jonny Marray, a relative unknown, won the men’s doubles title after qualifying on a wild card with his Danish partner. It marked the first time a British man had won that title since 1936 — the same year Perry claimed the singles title. And the omens didn’t end there: Virginia Wade, the last British woman to lift the women’s trophy, did so in 1977 — the year Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Silver Jubilee. Fans hoped the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 would bode as well for Murray’s chances. Pessimists could have countered that Lendl, Murray’s coach, lost in the men’s final 25 years ago this year (Wimbledon was the only Grand Slam Lendl didn’t win).
With London preparing to host the Olympics in just three weeks, patriotic fervor seems to be peaking, and that helped fuel Murray mania. The gates at Wimbledon opened at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, and fans stampeded the grounds to snag the best seats on the 4,000-capacity Murray Mount, a hill overlooking a JumboTron. Color came through despite the gray sky and looming rain. Among those jockeying for position were grown men and women bedecked in red, white and blue, and whole families in T-shirts that spelled out M-U-R-R-A-Y when they sat side by side. The more bedraggled-looking fans frequently had fold-up tents: dozens had camped out overnight to ensure prime spots on the green. Given all the interest in Britain’s finalist, officials also opened up the 4,000-capacity Court No. 2, where spectators could watch the match unfold on another massive TV screen. Those with deep pockets had options too. On the morning of the final, tickets could reportedly be found online for as much as $50,000 a pair. A slew of famous faces managed to snag seats. Prime Minister David Cameron, London Mayor Boris Johnson and David and Victoria Beckham found their way to Centre Court, though they were upstaged by Pippa Middleton and her sister Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Speaking at a press conference following the match, Murray revealed that he had apologized to Federer on court for getting emotional during the awards ceremony. “I didn’t want that to happen,” he said. “You feel like you’re kind of attention seeking or something.” He also said that he wouldn’t resume training until his body healed from the particularly grueling two weeks. “I got a lot of bruises all over my body and stuff, so I need to take a few days off, let everything heal, recover, and then see,” he said. “But I won’t be on court next week, that’s for sure.”
What is certain is that Murray will return to Wimbledon later this month to represent his country at a home Olympics. Perhaps he’ll get the chance to avenge yet another Grand Slam defeat to Federer by facing off against him in the final on Aug. 5.