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Andy Murray ends drought for British men at Wimbledon

Andy Murray is the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry in 1936.


Andy Murray is the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry in 1936.

LONDON — On Sunday before another men’s final, the fans in their broad-brimmed hats and sunscreen stopped to take pictures and pay tennis tribute to the bronze statue of Fred Perry, which stands just outside Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Perry, a debonair Englishman, won the last of his three Wimbledon singles titles in 1936. But by late afternoon, with the shadows extending across the most important and historic court in tennis, Perry no longer stood alone.

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Andy Murray, a 26-year-old Scot, put a convincing end to a 77-year drought for the British men at the tournament that matters most to British men and their public. Murray did it by defeating Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 seed, without losing a set: 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

“Let’s Make History,” read one of the many signs being waved inside Centre Court on this steamy day.

And so Murray, long frustrated and even driven to tears by losing last year’s final, proceeded to do just that. He did it by proving better in the clutch and on the run than Djokovic, the game’s premier defender and marathon man. Murray did it by rallying from a break of serve down in the last two sets and then shrugging off the loss of three match points and a 40-0 lead in the final game on his serve.

He kept pushing, kept trying, as so many British men with lesser skills have tried through the decades, but this time the ending was different. On Murray’s fourth match point, Djokovic hit a two-handed backhand into the tape, and the final, with that burst of sound, was over.

After such a lengthy vigil, it was reasonable to expect something extraordinary: a rainbow, a back flip, a spontaneous, perfectly pitched “God Save the Queen” from the Centre Court crowd.

But the celebration — tinged with relief — bore instead a strong resemblance to many other celebrations of recent years.

After Djokovic’s backhand struck the net, Murray stripped off his cap, pumped his fists, and then shook hands with Djokovic, an old friend and rival, before climbing into the players box to embrace his family and friends, nearly forgetting his mother and boyhood coach, Judy Murray, before reversing course and hugging her, too.

Then came the on-court interview, where Murray had broken down, microphone in hand, after losing a lead and the final to Roger Federer last year.

“It feels slightly different to last year,” began Murray, proving that understatement extends to Scotland, as well. “Last year was one of the toughest moments of my career, so to manage to win the tournament today, it was an unbelievably tough match. So many long games, and I don’t know how I managed to come through that final game.”

Sue Barker, the BBC broadcaster, told Murray that the game had been “torturous to watch.”

Murray skipped a beat and said, “Imagine playing it.”

He then spoke of Djokovic.

“I’ve played Novak many times, and I think when everyone is finished playing he’s going to go down as one of the biggest fighters,” Murray said. “He’s come back so many times from losing positions, and he almost did the same again today.’’

But the British men — from Bunny Austin to Tim Henman — kept swinging and missing until Murray finally arrived: a once-in-a-generation talent from the unlikely tennis destination of Dunblane, Scotland. It is a small city better known for tragedy than victory until Murray’s achievements because of a massacre at Murray’s own primary school in 1996 in which a gunman shot and killed 16 students, all 5 or 6, and one of their teachers.

Murray has rarely discussed the episode, but it has been a subtle driving force for him.

But Murray is now making a habit of making all of Britain proud, and if Sunday’s final seemed to lack the full-force emotional impact that a 77-year wait would suggest, that is because of Murray’s recent achievements.

Only a few weeks after losing in last year’s Wimbledon final, he came back to win the Olympic gold medal on the same stretch of lawn at the All England Club. A few weeks after that, he won his first Grand Slam singles title — after four straight losses in finals — at the US Open.

On the court where the serve and the ace once ruled in men’s tennis, Djokovic and Murray combined for 30 break points and 11 breaks of serve: four for Djokovic and seven for Murray.

The difference was in the details: serves that landed in the corners instead of in what the British call “the tramlines”; half-volleys that struck the net cord and tumbled over for a winner.

But there were some broad-brush realities, too. Murray was much more effective with his first serve: winning 72 percent of the points to Djokovic’s 59 percent.

“I wasn’t patient enough in the moments when I should have been, when I should have looked for a better opportunity to attack,” Djokovic said. “And my serve wasn’t as good as it was the whole tournament.’’

Still, even in straight sets, it never looked easy, just as Wimbledon has never felt easy to Murray since he first played in the main draw at age 18.

“It’s hard, really hard,” he said. “For the last four or five years, it’s been very tough, very stressful, a lot of pressure.”

But now, after 77 years and a whole lot of strawberries and cream, the pressure has been released.

Whatever will the British talk about next year?

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