From the lawns of Wimbledon to the lochs of Scotland, all of Britain can celebrate.
Andy Murray made it possible Sunday, winning his country’s hallowed tennis tournament to become the first British man in 77 years to raise the trophy at the All England Club.
Murray’s 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over top-seeded Novak Djokovic was a fitting close to nearly eight decades of British frustration in its own backyard: A straight-setter, but a hard-fought, 3-hour, 9-minute affair filled with long, punishing rallies and a final game that may have felt like another 77 years, with Murray squandering three match points before finally putting it away after four deuces.
On a warm, cloudless day on Centre Court, Murray put his name beside that of Fred Perry, the last British man to win Wimbledon, back in 1936.
The second-seeded Murray beat the best in Djokovic, a six-time Grand Slam winner known for both a mental and physical fitness built to handle what he faced Sunday: A crowd full of 15,000 partisans rooting against him, to say nothing of Murray himself. Since falling to Roger Federer in the final last year, Murray had shed some baggage by winning the Olympic gold medal on Centre Court, then following that with his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open.
The loss in last year’s Wimbledon final “was one of the toughest moments in my career, so to manage to win this tournament today,” Murray said, letting the thought trail off.
When Murray finally wrapped it up, he let his racket fall to the turf, took his hat off and pumped his fist toward the crowd. Later, he climbed to the guest box where his girlfriend, Kim Sears, and his coach, Ivan Lendl, were among those sweating this out.
Born a week apart in May 1987 - Djokovic in Belgrade when it was part of Yugoslavia, and Murray in Glasgow, Scotland - these top two players are building the best tennis rivalry of the 2010s. This was their third meeting in the last four Grand Slam finals and all have been riveting affairs.
Djokovic went up a break in both the second and third sets and, both times, appeared to have grabbed at least a bit of control and quieted a crowd that included Prime Minister David Cameron.
But Murray dug out of both holes. In the second set, he set up break point with a sharply angled forehand that Djokovic couldn’t handle, and the Serb responded with a double-fault, one of four on the day.
In the third set, Murray lost four straight games to fall behind 4-2, but got the break back and - eventually - closed it out by winning the last four games.
He was leading 5-4, 40-0 and Djokovic had all but given up. But the next few minutes felt like forever. Djokovic saved the first three championship points, then had three break opportunities of his own. Couldn’t convert any.
Then, finally, Murray put it away when Djokovic put a backhand in the net. A few minutes later, the 26-year-old Murray was kissing the trophy.