At 5:24 p.m. local time on Centre Court, a backhand into the net by the world’s top-ranked tennis player gave Andy Murray his first Wimbledon title, and ended a 77-year wait for Britain.
Murray’s 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 defeat of the top-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia was the first victory at the All England Club in London for a British man since Fred Perry won in 1936, when players wore long flannel trousers. The win will also open up the 26-year-old Murray’s earning potential.
Ending Britain’s decades-long drought at the grass-court major may triple Murray’s earnings of around $12 million a year from endorsements and prize money, according to branding consultant Jonathan Gabay. Nigel Currie, director of London-based sports marketing agency brandRapport, said Murray, who also holds the U.S. Open and Olympic titles, may be able to pull in as much as 50 million pounds ($74 million) a year.
“A British man winning Wimbledon hasn’t happened for such a long time,” said Gabay, who’s worked with the British Broadcasting Corp. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. “The sky really is the limit for him.”
Almost all U.K. newspapers carried Murray on their front pages today. “History Boy,” headlined The Times, while the Daily Mirror ran a picture of Murray with the trophy and the headline “History in His Hands.” The Sun added: “Finally, After 77 Years, 15 Prime Ministers, Three Monarchs…Brit Man Wins Wimbo.” The BBC today said 17.3 million television viewers watched Murray win, which is a share of close to 80 percent of the audience.
The second-seeded Murray yesterday said he played “the hardest game ever” at 5-4 in the final set, when he squandered three match points before saving three break points.
“I started to feel nervous and started thinking about what just happened,” said Murray, who lost last year’s final to Roger Federer. “Very rarely will you get broken from 40-0 up on grass and when you’re serving for Wimbledon.”
He finally succeeded on the fourth match point, as Djokovic made his 40th error.
One Hour’s Sleep
Winning Wimbledon “is the pinnacle of our sport,” Murray said in an interview today from Wimbledon, after attending the Champions Dinner last night in London with women’s champion Marion Bartoli and getting about an hour of sleep.
“This place has so much history, you look at the names of the people that have won here,” he told Francine Lacqua and Guy Johnson of Bloomberg Television. “I’ll try to win another one if I can in my career, but I don’t think even if I did it would even be better than this one.”
After a loud roar rolled from Centre Court to “Murray Mound,” where thousands of spectators had watched the final in temperatures that reached 28 degrees Celsius (82 Fahrenheit), Murray sunk to all fours on the grass before climbing up to his box to embrace his supporters, including his coach Ivan Lendl.
“He managed to keep his composure and get there in the end,” Judy Murray, Andy’s mother and his first coach, said half an hour after the win, a glass of champagne in her hand. “I’m absolutely thrilled for him.”
Murray’s victory was lauded by former champions including Rod Laver, John McEnroe and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron while Queen Elizabeth II sent a private message.
“It was a fantastic day for Andy Murray, for British tennis and for Britain,” Cameron told reporters on a visit to a school in London today.
Asked about the possibility of Murray receiving a knighthood and being able to use the title ‘Sir,’ Cameron replied “Honors are decided independently but, frankly, I can’t think of anyone who deserves one more.”
Djokovic, whose 4 hour, 45 minute semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro set a record at Wimbledon, wasn’t his usual boisterous and aggressive self. The Serb said Murray outperformed him.
“The bottom line is that he was a better player in decisive moments,” Djokovic said in a news conference. “Both second and third sets, I was 4-2 up and dropped the serve in those games and just allowed him to come back for no reason.”
Murray’s image “softened” after he cried on Centre Court last year after his loss to Federer, Gabay said.
In a documentary broadcast by the BBC shortly before Wimbledon, Murray struggled with his emotions as he recounted memories of hiding in his primary school in Dunblane when former Scout leader Thomas Hamilton shot 16 pupils and a teacher dead in March 1996.
Yesterday, people sang and danced in the streets of Dunblane after Murray’s victory.
Since four-time semifinalist Tim Henman’s last Wimbledon appearance in 2007, Murray has been Britain’s No. 1 tennis player. He’s had a difficult relationship at times with the British press and was accused of being “anti-English” after he made a joke about the England national soccer team during the 2006 World Cup.
A month after his loss in last year’s Wimbledon final, he beat Federer for the gold medal at the London Olympics, which was also played at the All England Club. In September, Murray overcame Djokovic to win his first major singles title at the U.S. Open in New York.
“I persevered,” said Murray, who has lost five Grand Slam finals. “That’s really been it, the story of my career probably. I had a lot of tough losses, but the one thing I would say is every year I always improved a little bit.”
Bud Collins, an American tennis historian and broadcaster who has followed the game for more than 40 years, said he spoke to Perry three days before his 1995 death, and the former champion wasn’t convinced his feat would ever be matched by a Briton.
“I wish Fred Perry was here to see it,” Collins said, while watching Murray hold the trophy from the press box on Centre Court. “I asked him if a British man would ever win Wimbledon and he thought no one would ever do it.”
Today, Murray posed with the trophy next to Perry’s statue, just outside Centre Court.
Laver, a four-time Wimbledon champion from Australia, told the BBC that Murray “has a long career ahead of him” after winning his first grass-court major.
McEnroe, a three-time winner in London, told the BBC Murray may win “at least six majors.”
As happened in previous years, “Murray Mania” in the U.K. intensified as he advanced, especially after Federer was beaten in the second round and two-time champion Rafael Nadal was knocked out the first round. Murray could have played either in the semifinals.
His draw was eased further after half the seeds in the top 10 exited before the third round through injury or defeat. Tickets for yesterday’s men’s final had been offered at as much as 71,000 pounds a pair on online market place Viagogo.
“It’s really hard,” Murray said when asked about the burden of expectation. “For the last four or five years, it’s been very, very tough, very stressful, a lot of pressure. I felt a little bit better this year than I did last year, but it’s not easy. I think now it will become easier. I hope it will.”
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