Another year at Wimbledon, another year without a men’s British singles champion. 1936 was the year when Fred Perry won Wimbledon; 76 years on we are still waiting for the next British male to step up. Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in the 2012 final to win his seventh Wimbledon title. This ties him with Pete Sampras for the most ever Wimbledon titles. It is also Federer’s seventeenth Grand Slam title and takes him back to number one in the world. Quite a day for the man from Switzerland, however it could have been so different for Murray and British hopes.
When the draw came out for Wimbledon it looked very tough for Andy Murray. He had a host of dangerous players in his quarter and no one was confidently predicting a final appearance for him. However he methodically worked his way through; Round One saw the destruction of former world number three Nikolay Davydenko 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. In the second round Murray defeated the big serving Ivo Karlovic in four tough sets. Next up was the unpredictable Marcos Baghdatis who Murray, after a slow start, again beat in four sets. People were questioning Murray’s form but he answered these critics in Round four. He faced Queens Champion Marin Cilic and crushed him 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 to set up a quarter-final with David Ferrer. This was a rematch of their French Open quarter-final and Murray exacted revenge on the Spaniard. Murray triumphed in four hard fought sets; three of which were tie-breaks. The semi-final stage where he has lost in the last three years brought a surprise. Rafael Nadal, who Murray has lost to the last two years, lost in the second round to world number one hundred Lukas Rosol. This meant Murray was instead facing fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in the Wimbledon final. The Scot played some great tennis and sealed his place in the final and a shot at history against Federer. However at times it looked like Federer wasn’t going to make the final.
Federer won his first two rounds with ease but the third round was nearly the end. He was two sets to love down against Julien Benneteau and was two points away from being out of the tournament in the fourth set. In his next round against Xavier Malisse saw another scare, this time injury. Federer is famous for never calling for the trainer on court, however in his fourth round match he went off court for treatment. When he came back his movement was sluggish and, although he won, people were wondering how long he could last. A straight sets destruction of Youzhny in the quarter-final set up a dream semi-final against Novak Djokovic. Federer showed his class and beat the number one in four sets; the signs were ominous for Murray in their final.
As Sunday dawned everyone expected Murray to show more nerves in the final; especially in front of a boisterous home crowd. However he started better than Federer and broke him straight away for a 2-0 lead. Federer worked his way back into the set and it was evenly poised at four all. Murray then broke in the crucial game and served out the set 6-4. The second set was now vital; if Murray won he would take a two set to love lead. No man had come back from two sets to love down in a Wimbledon final since 1927. Murray was the better player in the second set and it seemed a matter of time before he broke Federer. He had two break points at two all and four all, but unlike the first set he could not convert. Federer went on to take the set 7-5 and then at one all in the third set the roof was closed. This favoured Federer as the conditions now meant the balls flew through the air quicker. Federer embraced the new conditions and came out a lot more aggressive. He particularly attacked Murray’s second serve and the Brit was under siege on his serve. At 3-2 to Federer in the third set Murray had a nineteen minute long service game. It was a critical point of the match and Federer finally broke on his sixth break point. From there Federer raised his game and was simply too good for Murray. Murray battled until the end but ultimately succumbed in four sets.
Murray can hold his head up high; he lost to a man who has won the most Grand Slams in history and who, at times, played sublime tennis. Murray didn’t play defensive tennis; he didn’t wait for Federer to make errors and took the game to the Swiss. His serve let him down at times, especially at the end of the second set where he needed first serves to win him some cheap points. Ultimately Federer had too much class and he deserved the win.
What’s next for the two finalists? The last time when Murray lost in a Grand Slam final it hit him hard. He lost his next three matches to lowly ranked players and didn’t fully recover for quite a few months. He has to bounce back and the Olympics will provide an opportunity for this. Then it is the American hard court season culminating with the U.S Open. Murray has reached the final there before and thrives on the hard courts, so he will need to go into that full of confidence that he can break his duck. Federer on the other hand is going from strength to strength. In 2012 he has won 90.2% of his matches and has won his first Grand Slam since January 2010. He will be full of confidence that he can add to his seventeen Grand Slam titles and after this performance many will agree. He is back to number one in the world and doesn’t look like declining as many have predicted.
Murray now joins his coach Ivan Lendl on the unfortunate record of losing their first four Grand Slam finals. However Lendl went on to win eight Grand Slams and Murray will take heart from this. He is still only 25 and has plenty of time to win Grand Slams, especially considering Federer is still adding to his at thirty years old. 2012 so far has seen three different Grand Slam Champions; will there be a fourth at the U.S Open?