By Justin Falconer
On Sunday afternoon under a conspicuously bright London sky, the second highest ranked male tennis player in the world greeted the baseline at 40-0.
It is nigh on impossible to fathom exactly how he felt. The score read 5-4 in the third and possibly final set.
Hunched over at the other end of the court was his sole superior, according to the global rankings.
There stood a man who will eventually be regarded as one third of the most competitive tennis-trio in history and in his own right, an individual great. But so far on the second Sunday at The Championships he had been all but conquered.
There were plenty watching on beside the court, outside the court and all around the world. Both men could feel their collective gaze. There is no tangible measurement for pressure, yet after three minutes shy of three hours doing battle, the tension was nearing a climax.
The crowd hushed to find out if their Scottish, yet British hero Andy Murray could achieve what he failed to do the previous summer against Roger Federer on that very baseline. After a serve and much scrambling, Murray returned to the ball kids. Novak Djokovic lived to fight another point.
Then, the Serbian’s backhand return of serve was emphatic in both winning the point and sending Murray a message. 40-30.
Tennis is a peculiar sport as it requires the player to go forth and claim victory. It is a sport that demands boldness and considerate mental fortitude. In tennis there is no time on the clock for the player to ‘ice’, he or she must have the conviction to finish the match one way or another. If you want to win you must stand up.
Andy Murray stressed after the match how prior to the ultimately final game he remained relatively calm, but after squandering his first couple of opportunities negative thoughts emerged. ‘What ifs’ can be the elite athlete’s fiercest opponent.
Perhaps the difference between Murray now and the tearful Murray after last year’s Wimbledon defeat was an Olympic gold medal and maiden Grand Slam triumph (over Djokovic) in the 2012 US Open final. He had shown he could beat the best but the fear of failure must have still weighed monumentally.
Deuce. Momentum in tennis is unique, so heavily it can swing from one side of the net to the other. Novak Djokovic had shown he had the strength and precision to wrest the momentum in three fickle points.
From midway through the second set, Murray proceeded to win eight of the following nine games and the second set in the progress. Two sets and two games to love up and the trophy engraver was summoned.
Djokovic won the next four games to lead 4-2 and fans and experts acknowledged Djokovic, one of the best defensive players of all time, could be hard to stop with a set under his belt.
Similar to at 4-2, in the depths of the match’s tenth game, all of a sudden it was Murray looking to the stands for answers. But after denying Djokovic a third break point, at deuce, a high ball was uncharacteristically left unpunished by the Serb. Murray scuttled for another Championship point.
Finals are the culmination of built-up suspense, either accumulated in the tournament preceding it, a season or a career. Only the desperately disinterested would have not learnt about how long it had been since a British person won Wimbledon.
Fred Perry did so in 1936 with his third consecutive crown and forever has been ‘the last British player to win Wimbledon’. Assuming you discount females as humans as many have recklessly done, of course.
Andy Murray bludgeoned his opponent around on Sunday afternoon and out-defended the world number one. Djokovic’s attacking of the net and luring of Murray with repeated drop shots was unusual but Murray left him with little choice but to try something foreign.
Championship point once more, as Novak Djokovic cannoned a backhand into the tape.
Murray’s elation was glorious and historic. One part disbelief, two parts relief. A well-earned triumph over 77 years’ worth of pressure and expectation.
Always a Great Briton, but finally a great Briton.
Justin Falconer is a second year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @jfalconer6