77 years ago, Fred Perry won Wimbledon. Prior to yesterday, Perry was the last Brit to have won the most coveted and uniquely English grand slam trophy. Andy Murray ended the Brit drought by beating Novak Djokovic is straight sets, 3-0. To say that the home crowd was ecstatic as Murray threw his racket into the air in the wake of match point is a bit of an understatement. The English have been patiently – very, very patiently – awaiting redemption and Murray, who has been the closest thing to a potential English champion that the English have witnessed in Wimbledon in 77 years, obliged.
Murray’s win was set up by his breakthrough gold medal in the London Olympics. That win over Roger Federer reduced the heavy weight of national hopes and aspirations that he stoically bore. Murray appeared relaxed and confident throughout yesterday’s match. He was able to withstand many long rallies that routinely exceeded 20 shots. Djokovic, on the other hand, seemed a bit sluggish at times, which ran contrary to his typically superb mental and physical conditioning. But Djokovic may still have been suffering from the grueling 5-set semifinal match with Del Potro. Murray had a comparatively easy time dispatching Jankowicz and seemed very well-rested for the final.
Novak Djokovic did not suffer losing quite as well as might have been hoped. He was a little salty toward the fans’ continuous but expected support for their hometown boy. His tone during a post-game interview hinted at his simmering resentment. During the match, the typically calm Djokovic complained about calls that rarely proved to be well-founded. As Djokovic battled his suddenly-aroused inner demons, Murray simply stuck to his game plan, grinded it out, and put together strings of winning points when they were needed.
It is a bit unfair and more than a bit ironic that Andy Murray has been cast as the standard-bearer for English tennis. The suit is ill-fit. After all, Murray is not English but a Scot. He was born and raised in a town north of Hadrian’s Wall. Scots consider Murray as one of their own and only one of their own. In this regard, Scots don’t really feel they should share their pride. In the same way that the topic of Scotland’s political self-determination is not exactly the best thing to bring up in a London pub, and in the same way that Scotland’s Premier League (soccer) is separate and distinct from the English Premier League (just ask any fan of the Celtics or Rangers), Scots do not take kindly to England and London media coopting Murray’s nationality. It has been pointed out on many occasions that misplaced faith in Tim Henman was misplaced faith in an Englishman. Furthermore, Fred Perry’s championship win in 1936 was quite rightfully accorded to an Englishman.
I have no problem with giving the Brits credit for winning their first Wimbledon title in 77 years. Quite to the contrary, my esteemed other-side-of-the-Ponders, take whatever you can get. However, in all of my conversations with any of you English, you’ve readily acknowledged Andy Murray’s Scottish primacy and your generous pardoning of his heritage. That’s not a bad thing, we all want to rejoice in victory, and even the most dubious excuse to celebrate is good enough for me.
Murray’s accomplishment is nothing short of fantastic. He has staked his claim atop tennis’ hierarchy of top players in the sport. Most importantly, he is no longer Murray ascending. He is Murray arrived. In this respect, it is a remarkable time in the history of the sport. We are being feted by something quintessentially English: a changing of the guard.