Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Andy Murray's Wimbledon dream shattered by Roger Federer

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 08: Roger Federer of Switzerland holds the winner's trophy after winning his Gentlemen's Singles final match against Andy Murray of Great Britain on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 8, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 08: Roger Federer of Switzerland holds the winner's trophy and gives a thumbs up after winning his Gentlemen's Singles final match against Andy Murray of Great Britain on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 8, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Lydia Payne, left, and Rosie Erwin camp overnight for access to the grounds for the men's final between Andy Murray and Roger Federer

From the club in Dunblane where Andy Murray first picked up a tennis racket at the age of eight, in homes across the country and on Centre Court itself, the tears flowed as Great Britain's 76-year search for Fred Perry's successor went on.

It will come as no solace to Murray right now that his defeat in the Wimbledon final to a man rapidly establishing himself as the undisputed greatest tennis player of all time was one that came down to such small margins.

The inch-long backhand on break point at 4-4 in the second set which would have left him serving for a two-set lead. The forehand down the line that would have given him an early break in the fourth, but landed just wide.

Make no mistake, Murray had his chances. Federer, having lost the first set, briefly looked there for the taking. But 17-time grand slam champions - this was number 17 - tend to find a way to claw back the most hopeless of causes.

It was supposedly written in the stars for Murray. In a special summer of British sport, he was destined to join Virginia Wade as a British Wimbledon singles winner in a Jubilee year.

The Olympics are looming, a Briton is leading the Tour de France, and Sheffield's Jonny Marray had served up the most improbable of appetisers by going from hopeless wild card to Wimbledon doubles champion the night before.

Ultimately, though, it might be said that fate conspired against Murray. The closure of the Centre Court roof in the third game of the third set undoubtedly favoured indoor specialist Federer, whose shots glued to the lines with renewed purpose upon the re-start.

We learned much about two men today. Firstly, that Federer, with his first grand slam title in two-and-a-half years at the age of 30, can give Rod Laver a run for his money at the summit of the lists of all-time greats. Laver already puts Federer top.

But perhaps we learned more about Murray. We learned that he belongs on the biggest of occasions, and that talk of the world's top three - Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - disappearing over the horizon is not so much premature as plain wrong.

Talk of Murray missing his best chance is palpable nonsense. This is not 2002, when Tim Henman's desperate quest was lent extra urgency by the knowledge that the likes of Federer and Lleyton Hewitt were shaping up to start their own eras of dominance.

The rising star these days is Murray himself. Next year, Federer will be one year older and Murray will be the stand-out challenger on his home court. When he emerges from his darkest sporting hour, Murray will know that more than most.

In his box, he has a coach in Ivan Lendl whose career defines perseverance. In 1982, Lendl skipped Wimbledon, saying he was "allergic to grass". He would go on to appear in two All England Club finals.

Like Murray, Lendl lost his first four grand slam finals. He would play a total of 19, and win eight. The statistics alone suggest there can hardly be a better man to haul Murray out of his trough of despair and on to his finest hours.

When the chalk dust has settled and the Olympics have begun to dominate the nation's sporting consciousness, Murray will also be able to reflect on a campaign through which it can belatedly be said he has been taken to Britain's heart.

His outpouring of emotion during the on-court interviews revealed a seldom-seen side of Murray's character, and it is one which ought to ensure his future quests are backed without so many tiresome jibes about his demeanour or his on-court temperament.

In defeat, Murray has come of age in so many ways. Thirty-nine different men have held aloft the famous Wimbledon men's singles trophy since Perry won his third title in 1936. If Murray can become the 40th, his tears will be of joy, and they will be shared by almost all.

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