From the first point, both made clear they intended to fight until their legs or lungs expired, engaging in 25- and 30-stroke rallies that were more a test of resolve than technique. After trading service breaks, Murray got the break he needed to serve out the first set.
Inconsistent in the early going, Djokovic settled himself and bolted to a 4-1 lead in the next set. But after balking at a linesman’s call, the Serb went into a funk. As his focus strayed, Murray reeled off three consecutive games and, in short order, took a two-sets-to-none lead.
That sort of deficit might dispirit some, particularly in such a physical battle during the hottest part of the day, on London’s hottest day of the year. But not Djokovic, regarded as the fittest man on tour.
The third set was a must-win for the Serb, who seized a 4-2 advantage. But his fatigue showed itself as he switched tactics, hoping to shorten the rallies. Djokovic flicked drop shots, but Murray chased them down for winners. He tried hitting softer to disrupt the Scot; Murray was rock-steady.
But after storming back and finding himself one point from Wimbledon’s title, Murray couldn’t close the match.
The fans on Murray Mound were on their feet and screaming. Everyone, it seemed, had cameras or cellphones out, lenses fixed on Centre Court to capture the victory.
“It’s the hardest few points I’ve had to play in my life,” said Murray, a man not given to superlatives, still in a fog more than an hour after clinching the title and falling to his knees in disbelief.
But for the rest of Britain, there was nothing hazy about the day Andy Murray made tennis history.
At Tower Bridge, joyous fans erupted in cheers and hoisted cups of Pimm’s in the air. There was no room to move; no opening to see the street. “It’s great,” said software engineer Onat Oglakcioglu, 29. “You can feel the energy. They have been craving for the championship for about 80 years, so, a festival it will be.”
In a packed pub in south London, restaurant owner Herve Durochat, 39, exulted: “For 10 years I have been hearing about Tim Henman. But now it is Murray! Murray! Murray! He did it! Tonight, for London, it is going to be a bit of champagne and a bit of fun. It has been a long time people have been waiting for this.”
The residents of Dunblane poured into the streets, playing bagpipes, tooting horns and singing.
“There is so much pressure on any U.K. tennis player to win Wimbledon,” said Steve Birnie, 49, chairman of the Dunblane Centre. “It’s the thing everyone wants to win, no one has done it for 77 years. . . . He came so close last year, and was so heartbroken, so everyone this year thought, ‘If ever there was a time, this was it.’ . . . What a fantastic day.”