2013 Wimbledon men’s final: Andy Murray plays steady tennis to become a champion

If tears fell, Andy Murray didn’t show it this time.

The 26-year-old Scot has learned to manage his emotions in victory or defeat, just as his resounding victory over top-ranked Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon on Sunday proved he has learned to manage wild swings of fortune on court as well, even when the pressure is greatest.

With his victory, Murray snapped a 77-year drought of British male champions at Wimbledon. He fell to his knees upon beating Djokovic, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, to claim the sport’s most prestigious title after finishing a tearful runner-up to Roger Federer last year.

Murray has borne the weight of expectation for years, hailed as the youngster capable of reclaiming Britain’s tennis prominence on its grandest stage. While his talent has never been in question, his rein on his emotions has.

The young Murray often brooded when matches went poorly. His shoulders sagged. And he erupted in profane outbursts of self-loathing after particularly poor shots.


Andy Murray of Britain poses with the trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the Men's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Sunday, July 7, 2013. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

But on Sunday, Murray won Wimbledon because he was the steadier man and more resilient competitor, fighting back from a 1-4 deficit in the second set and a 2-4 deficit in the third to seal the victory in 3 hours 9 minutes.

After sharing an embrace with Djokovic at the net, he climbed toward his guest box and gave his first hug to his coach, Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl, whose early record in Grand Slam finals mirrored Murray’s.

In the 1980s, the hard-hitting Lendl rocketed to the top of men’s tennis with his powerful game. But he lost four Grand Slam finals before winning the first of his eight major titles. That’s largely why Murray hired him in December 2012, having suffered the same ignominy under a string of coaches.

So on Sunday, Murray paid his first debt of gratitude to Lendl, under whose tutelage he has won an Olympic gold medal and two of the sport’s past four Grand Slam events — the 2012 U.S. Open and now Wimbledon.

“He believed in me when a lot of people didn’t,” Murray said of Lendl, who reached the 1986 and ’87 Wimbledon finals but failed to win either. “He stuck by me through obviously some tough losses the last couple of years. He’s been very patient with me. I’m just happy I managed to do it for him.”

In many ways, Murray and Djokovic are tennis’s version of a Rorschach print, only one inch apart in height and seven days apart in age. Both boast strong serves, terrific returns of serve, powerful groundstrokes and stunning on-court quickness.

Murray had the easier path to the championship, advancing with a four-set victory in his semifinal Friday. Djokovic’s five-set semi was a 4-hour 43-minute marathon, the longest in Wimbledon history.

The Serb showed no sign of fatigue in Sunday’s opening set but was wildly inconsistent, spraying groundstrokes wide and long. His normally cracking serve was off, too. Nonetheless, the rallies were long, energy-sapping affairs, ending most often on an errant shot by the Serb. Murray broke his opponent twice to claim the opening set.

Djokovic broke Murray early in the second set, attacking every second serve the Scot put in play. But after taking a 4-1 lead, he let Murray back in the match. He double-faulted to get broken at 4-3, then got broken to hand Murray a 6-5 lead after erupting at the umpire over what he thought was a bad call. Having run out of his allotted challenges, Djokovic begged the official to overrule the call. He declined, and Djokovic couldn’t seem to regain his focus.

The Serb’s third-set lead was short-lived. He was too hasty with his shots, he later conceded, trying ill-advised drop shots that the Scot retrieved with ease.

Though he played from behind much of the match, Murray never resorted to desperate tactics. He didn’t revert to a human backboard, either, content to keep the ball in play in the hope Djokovic would self-destruct. Instead, Murray chose his moments to attack as carefully as he placed his serve.

Djokovic’s final stand tested Murray mightily. With Murray serving for the match at 40-love, the Serb fought off three match points. Then he inched ahead for three break points. Murray batted away each. Finally, the Serb buckled, unable to keep one more blistering Murray forehand in play.

“That last game will be the toughest game I’ll play in my career, ever,” Murray said.

Djokovic committed 40 unforced errors in the match to Murray’s 21. And though he was the higher-risk player, he managed five fewer winners. Asked afterward whether his semifinal’s rigor had taken a toll, Djokovic said, “It took a lot out of me. [But] I cannot look for excuses in the match two days ago.”

Murray was asked about the pressure he has felt each time Wimbledon gets underway.

“It’s so hard to avoid everything because of how big this event is but also because of the history and no Brit having won,” Murray said. “It’s been very, very difficult. . . . I think now it will become easier. I hope it will. I hope it will.”

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