Murray lost to a master of the universe, the tennis equivalent of Pele or Ali…
21:53 GMT, 8 July 2012
He did not lose because he choked. He did not lose because he moaned. He did not surrender to injury, or mislay his focus under the incredible weight of history bearing down.
Andy Murray, the first Briton to contest a men’s singles final at Wimbledon since 1938, was beaten due to a factor entirely beyond his control. He was defeated by a piece of paper. It is an official document, this sheet, nondescript and formulaic and issued by a local registry office or the General Register Office of Scotland.
Yet it places the birth date of Andrew Barron Murray – the middle translates from Old English as ‘young warrior’ – smack dab at the heart of what most acknowledge as the pinnacle of achievement in his chosen sport.
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There is no misty-eyed golden era to remember in tennis. The golden years are now. It is Murray’s misfortune to have as contemporaries men who would have bestrode any other time like Colossus. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic.
There have been great players before them, great contests, too. Has tennis ever been more glamorous than it was three decades ago No, but it has never been as good as now. And along comes Murray, the greatest British player of the post-war years, and blocking his path is a superhuman triumvirate.
It does not matter if Nadal is knocked out early, Federer removes Djokovic, or vice versa.
As long as one of the three remain in a tournament, the challenge for Murray is mountainous.
So it proved on Sunday. He did not even lose because he was not good enough. He almost certainly is good enough. He just isn’t good enough now.
Murray has learned to be philosophical about his poor timing. He says competing with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic has made him a better player. Rather this than play in an era of weak competition. Yet how frustrating must it be, on days like this
The 2012 final was regarded as Murray’s greatest chance of winning Wimbledon and, as he remarked drily after it had all ended in tears, in his way was a man whose victory restored him to the status of No 1 in the world and gave him his seventh Wimbledon men’s title.
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‘Hats off to Murray for a great fight. But we saw why Fed is the #GOAT (Greatest of all time)’ – 14-time major golf champion Tiger Woods.
‘@andy_murray did himself, his family and his nation proud today. Played like a champ. His time will come for sure!’ — Ryder Cup golfer Rory McIlroy.
‘:( so gutted for Andy. I don’t know about you guys but I’m crying’ – fellow British tennis player Laura Robson.
‘Tut – who on earth would cry at a sporting ceremony! Well done Andy Murray – did us proud before during and indeed after’ – four-time Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent, no stranger to tears.
‘Federer, all hail,7th Wimbledon championship. Andy Murray,you are a champion in my eyes, one day mate it will be you. #riseandriseagain’ – actor Russell Crowe.
‘As it turns out, with that speech Andy Murray today has won more than any Wimbledon title is worth. He has won the hearts of the Country’ – broadcaster Eamonn Holmes.
‘Hard luck to Andy Murray. He’ll get there eventually and it’ll be all the sweeter when he does’ – Olympic cyclist and fellow Scot Sir Chris Hoy.
‘Well done @andy_murray no disgrace losing to the best that ever played tennis….great final to have been present at’ – Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.
Some lucky break that was. Some pushover.
‘We’re talking about one of the greatest athletes of all time here,’ said Murray. ‘We’ve got to put it in context. If that’s my best chance, well…’
He tailed off. We knew what he was thinking. How long How long must he wait for Federer’s star to wane And what will be left for him then
Wasn’t fatherhood supposed to sap Federer’s strength, divert his attention He had twins, for heaven’s sake. There they sat on the ledge of the players’ box, watching their dad parade his trophy. Twins are nature’s way of stopping you thinking straight, except Federer’s thought patterns just got stronger as the match wore on.
His shot selection, his tactical decisions, his phenomenal ability to cope with the big points, the big moments, all improved with time.
Murray was at his best at the start, Federer by the end. After the roof had closed due to another downpour, he was simply stunning.
Murray could not live with him, as Djokovic couldn’t in the semi-final. As an athlete he deserves comparison with the masters of the universe: Muhammad Ali or Pele. We will tell our grandchildren that we saw him; maybe Murray will, too. Once he can stop crying. His tears will endear him to many, alienate him further from some. The crowd on Centre Court lapped them up, and quite a few joined him.
The moment he told Sue Barker, ‘I’m getting closer,’ with a crack in his voice it was obvious what would follow.
Murray failed to control his
emotions, as few in his position would. It seems almost torturous to
interview the loser so soon after defeat, particularly a loser dragging
76 years of shattered dreams in his wake.
acknowledged his opponent, his family, his team, his friends and the
supporters who had cheered themselves hoarse in his cause.
Double trouble: Federer's family watch on as he is presented with the trophy for a seventh time
He seemed to want it for them, as much as for himself, and they did not judge him harshly. They had seen, first-hand, the calibre of the man that won. They knew that, even if there were shortcomings in his game, and opportunities lost, Murray could not have given more.
His detractors will say crying showed weakness. That these were tears of self-pity and a sign of a competitor who does not have the will for the fight.
And they will forget what it required for Federer to take Murray down in the critical third set: the 26 points that were played in the sixth game, the six break points before Federer triumphed, the 20 minutes that passed on this one game. Murray’s serve: 15-0, 30-0, 40-0, 40-15, 40-30, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Federer, deuce, advantage Murray, deuce, advantage Federer, game Federer.
The last advantage only came about because Murray slipped at the net and was lobbed, the ball landing directly on the baseline.
It was an exceptional game, by far the longest of the match, but summed up the resolve of the two men. The first eight games of the opening set took 48 minutes to complete and almost an hour had passed when Murray took the set, 6-4. To suggest that Murray has lost four Grand Slam finals because he chokes is almost beyond idiocy.
He did not choke against Federer: he lost to one of sport’s few living legends.
If Murray had a fault it was that in the second set particularly he failed to capitalise on moments of vulnerability in Federer’s game.
Yet with most other players another
chance comes along. Federer is an exception. He allowed Murray a glimpse
of possibility and then the door quietly shut.
The master: Federer present his trophy to the adoring crowd outside Centre Court
Then a key turned in the lock and the result was inevitable.
The well-worn line about being able to cope with the despair, but not the hope, has never felt more appropriate as the great men of tennis formed an orderly queue to reassure Murray that he would win a Grand Slam, one day.
He has said previously that this is the hardest comment to take. They all seem sure, yet what proof is there Suppose this is as good as it gets What if he is the best player never to win a big one His coach Ivan Lendl also lost his first four, and went on to win eight, but history offers no guarantee.
‘Murray is giving himself so many looks at big titles,’ Federer said. ‘I really do believe deep down he will win Grand Slams, not just one. This is genuine. He works extremely hard and he is as professional as one can be. He got another step closer to a Grand Slam title today, that is for sure.’
How so Well, he won a set. That hasn’t happened before. Murray has been to three previous Grand Slam finals and lost in straight sets every time. Sunday’s events still place him 9-1 down when it matters, but nobody who saw this performance will say there is no hope for the future.
Maybe it is Murray that will take most convincing, as he sat in his chair at the end, staring straight ahead, lost in thought seemingly oblivious to the goodwill around him. These defeats hit him hard.
His last Grand Slam final defeat, to Djokovic at the Australian Open, was the most difficult to get over, and the emotion attached to Wimbledon will surely outstrip that emptiness.
Murray knows what was at stake here; he knows it would have been the biggest moment for British sport since the World Cup final in 1966. Instead, he merely erased Bunny Austin, the last British Wimbledon finalist in 1938, from the record books.
In that respect, it truly is a golden year for British tennis, although, as Murray joined Centre Court in drying his eyes, it barely felt that way.