WIMBLEDON, England – Andy Murray, a man deeply familiar with the words “first British male since,” annexed another distinction Sunday on Centre Court. He became the first British male since Fred Perry in the mid-1930s to claim multiple Wimbledon singles titles.
With his 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) win over debut Grand Slam finalist Milos Raonic, Murray delighted a partisan crowd of 15,000 and piled a second gaudy cup upon his breakthrough Wimbledon title from 2013. At that point, Murray curtailed a 77-year British male drought that yawned back to Perry in 1936. At this point, the fast, clever 29-year-old Scot ventures further into the statistical clouds.
“I’ve had some great moments here and some tough losses, and obviously the wins feel extra special because of the losses,” said Murray, who lost the 2012 final to Federer.
He holds three Grand Slam titles, tying him with tennis dignitaries such as Arthur Ashe and Gustavo Kuerten. He also has one from an odd position of favorite, as his 11th Grand Slam final became his first opposite neither of two nemeses, Roger Federer nor Novak Djokovic, who had exited in the semifinals (Federer, to Raonic) and the third round (Djokovic, to Sam Querrey).
In Raonic, the first Canadian male Grand Slam finalist, and a 25-year-old ranked No. 7 in the world, Murray had an opponent of contrast. The 6-foot-5 Raonic brought a blasting serve that can make spectators gasp and check the court-side mph gauge, and Murray brought the quickness and wiles of his all-court return game. Yet it was Raonic who never saw a break point until the fifth game of the third set (and couldn’t convert two then). Often, Raonic’s game attempts at 21st-century serve-and-volley tennis met doom against Murray’s artful and searing passing shots.
Other times, Raonic’s volleys, outstanding in general and blessed with fine touch, weren’t quite good enough given the opponent. Raonic faced two break points in the seventh game of the match, after Murray ripped a backhand passing shot by Raonic and Raonic erred on a forehand on a point he began well after Murray barely returned the 130-mph serve. A Murray backhand long cleared one break point. The second found Murray at the baseline and Raonic at the net, a microcosm. When Murray tried a forehand pass, Raonic leapt right on it, but then he netted his volley.
Murray exulted. Twenty-five minutes into the match, he had a slight upper hand he wouldn’t relinquish.
“He deserves to be winning here for a second time,” Raonic said in the BBC on-court interview afterward. He added, “This one’s gonna sting, so I’m gonna make sure, as these courts are green, that I’m going to be back here for another chance.”
They stayed on serve into the two tiebreakers, to which Raonic brought his 2016 tiebreak record of 20-6. Yet the moment might have felled him. He opened the second-set tiebreaker by racing forward commandingly for a short-ball backhand but netting it. Murray leapt to a 6-1 lead with such shots as a forehand pass Raonic let go, but which settled in the corner and roused the audience.
When Raonic mis-hit a return on a 96-mph second serve, Murray had the set.
When they got to another tiebreaker in the third, Murray played beautiful, almost airtight tennis, including a mighty forehand drive that got him to 5-0. On his second match point at 6-2, he drove another forehand that got Raonic on the run for a backhand he netted.
Murray cast his racket to the grass and punched his first in the air toward his team in the Friends Box. Again, had come all the way back to Fred Perry.