LONDON — From the lawns of Wimbledon to the lochs of Scotland, all of Britain can celebrate.
Andy Murray made it possible Sunday, winning his country's hallowed tennis tournament to become the first British man in 77 years to raise the trophy at the All England Club.
Yes, this was history, and the second-seeded Murray's 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over top seed Novak Djokovic was a fitting close to nearly eight decades of British frustration in its own back yard.
A straight-setter, yes, but a hard-fought, 3-hour, 9-minute affair filled with long, punishing rallies and a final game that might have felt like another 77 years, Murray squandering three match points before putting it away after four deuces.
That final game must have felt like torture to the 15,000 watching at Centre Court, thousands more watching on a big-screen TV on the grounds and the millions of British watching on TV.
"Imagine playing it," Murray said.
But he put his name beside that of Fred Perry, the last British man to win Wimbledon, in 1936.
"He's someone that I've obviously never met but is quite relevant in my career," Murray said.
Murray beat the best in Djokovic, top-ranked and a six-time Grand Slam winner who faced a crowd full of overheated partisans rooting against him, to say nothing of Murray himself.
"The atmosphere was incredible for him," Djokovic said. "For me, not so much."
Since falling to Roger Federer in last year's Wimbledon final, Murray had shed some baggage by winning the Olympic gold medal on Centre Court, then his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open. The U.S. Open win ended a 76-year drought for the British in Grand Slams.
This one? Even sweeter.
"The pinnacle of tennis," Murray called Sunday's win. "I worked so hard in that last game; the hardest few points I ever played in my life."
When he finally wrapped it up, he let his racket fall to the turf, took his hat off and pumped his fist toward the crowd. Later, he climbed to the guest box, where his girlfriend, Kim Sears, and his coach, Ivan Lendl, sat.
Born a week apart in May 1987 — Djokovic in Belgrade when it was part of Yugoslavia and Murray in Glasgow, Scotland — the 26-year-olds came up together through the junior ranks and now are building the best rivalry of the 2010s. This was their third meeting in the past four Grand Slam finals. Murray won a five-setter at the U.S. Open, and Djokovic won in four in Australia in January.
Sunday, Djokovic went up a break in the second and third sets to quiet a crowd that included Prime Minister David Cameron. But Murray dug his way out both times. In the second, Djokovic helped by double-faulting on break point. In the third, Murray lost four straight games to fall behind 4-2 but got the break back and closed it out by winning the last four games as the roars from every corner of Centre Court grew louder.
"The atmosphere was different to what I've experienced in the past," Murray said. "It was different than last year's final, for sure. And then the end of the match, that was incredibly loud, very noisy. I've been saying it all week, but it does make a difference, especially in a match as tough as that one, where it's extremely hot, brutal, long rallies, tough games. (The crowd) help you get through it."
Up 5-4 in the third, Murray quickly went ahead 40-0. But the next few minutes felt like forever. Djokovic saved the first three championship points, then had three break opportunities. He couldn't convert. And finally, Murray put it away when Djokovic rifled a backhand into the net. A few minutes later, Murray, was kissing the trophy.
How might things have progressed if Djokovic had pulled out that game?
"I don't know," was all Djokovic offered.
Djokovic went into the match on the heels of a 4-hour, 43-minute semifinal victory over Juan Martin del Potro in similarly parched conditions Friday. He conceded that match took a lot out of him.
"(But) I've been in these situations before. I felt okay," said Djokovic, who committed 40 unforced errors against 31 winners. "I wasn't patient enough in the moments when I should have been."
Besides the trophy, Murray earned about $2.4 million and got that long-awaited invitation to the black-tie champion's dinner Sunday night.
"The last four or five years, it's been very, very tough, very stressful, a lot of pressure," Murray said. "The few days before the tournament were really difficult as well. . . . I think now it will become easier. I hope it will."
The hoorahs came from every corner of the kingdom, including Buckingham Palace, a spokeswoman said: "I can confirm the Queen has sent a private message to Andy Murray following his Wimbledon victory."
Four notable changes that took place in Britain in the 77 years that elapsed between Wimbledon men's titles for Brits Fred Perry and Andy Murray:
. Queen Elizabeth II was 10 and known as Princess Elizabeth at the time of Perry's victory in 1936. Her coronation was in 1953.
. 39 men representing 12 countries won Wimbledon, including one from the now-nonexistent Czechoslovakia (Jan Kodes).
. The office of Prime Minister exchanged hands 16 times.
. More than a dozen countries in Africa, Hong Kong and large chunks of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, were granted independence from the British Empire.
The last men to win their country's Grand Slam tournament:
|Andy Roddick||U.S. Open||2003|
|Yannick Noah||French Open||1983|
|Mark Edmondson||Australian Open||1976|