Jul 9 2012 By Colim Mackenzie
He may have lost a tennis match but Andy Murray's heroic effort to win Wimbledon has at last won him a place in the hearts of the nation, even though his efforts over more than three and half hours led to a four set defeat by the greatest tennis player ever in Roger Federer.
The 25-year-old Scot will look back at one or two missed opportunities in this match and wonder if he could have pulled off the impossible. It was important to win the first set, his first in four Grand Slam Final attempts, and he delivered. But the crunch came in the second set when he twice had two points for a break, once at 2-2 and once at 4-4 with Federer shanking his backhand like a park player.
But Federer stood like a rock on both occasions and the opportunities melted away like the sunshine which had bathed the Centre Court for the first two hours. At 5-6 in the second set Murray was 40-0 up and apparently cruising to a tiebreak. But Federer is like a panther at these moments. Murray will especially rue the missed forehand which went long at 40-30.
In a trice Federer, who had seemed nervous and curiously out of sorts, had levelled the match. From then on The Everest of tennis challenges just got steeper and steeper for Murray. At 1-1 in the third set there was a 42 minute break as rain set in and the roof had to be put in place.
From that moment Federer's confidence grew. His service speed increased by 5mph and the mistakes he had been making disappeared as rain hammered down from a leaden sky. There was a pivotal game at 2-3 in the third set, lasting 26 points and ten deuces. For 19 incredible minutes Federer and Murray stretched each other to the limit, with the former finally breaking through on his sixth game point.
It was heartbreaking for Murray who had twice slipped over with the rallies seemingly won. It was a watershed moment and it broke Murray's resolve.
In the fourth set Murray was moving more like an automaton. It was difficult to guage whether or not he was injured. Certainly he was not serving his 130mph bullets as he had done in the first two sets. The Federator had upped his game again, proving that it is no fluke that he has won 27 of his 28 matches indoors in the last two and half years.
That elusive first win for a Brit in the Wimbledon singles championship drifted away on the tide of Federer's immortal talent. The Swiss Meister has now won 17 Grand Slam titles and has recovered his No I status as the best tennis player in the world. He will overtake his hero Pete Sampras's record of 285 weeks at the top of the game.
For Murray it is back to the practice court. However, unlike his three previous Grand Slam finals, this time he put his talent and courage on the line. For at least two thirds of the match the result was in serious doubt. He was matching Federer point for point and giving hope to the nation and to those on Centre Court who included the Duchess of Cambridge, Prime Minister David Cameron, Scotland's first Minister Alex Salmond, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham.
As he thanked the Centre Cort crowd for their support Murray was understandably emotional, unmasking his journey from Terence the Teenager to mature adult. For seven years Murray has been perceived as a dour Scot with little personality or sense of humour. Only those close to him (plus a few tennis scribes) knew him to be thoughtful and the owner of a good sense of humour.
Now he let it all hang out. He said; "Roger played a great tournament ans showed what fight he has left in him. So congratulations Roger, you deserve it. I'm going to try not to look at them (his support team including legend Ivan Lendl his coach), otherwise I'll cry again. Everyone in that corner who has supported me through this tournament, they did a great job, so thank you.
"Last of all you guys (sobbing). Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing Wimbledon. How tough it is. But it's not the people watching - they make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible."
Later Murray told his press conference; "I just said to him (Roger) sorry. I didn't obviously want that (the tears) to happen. You feel like you're kind of attention seeking or something. It was not like that at all. He just laughed and said "this is meant to be the easy part, doing speeches after the match. But sometimes it feels quite hard compared with playing a tennis match."
It is, perhaps, Murray's misfortune to have been born into a tennis era populated by the likes of Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. If one of the trio is off his game another will still bar his way to Grand Slam glory. But Federer still offered some words of comfort afterwards.
He said; "Murray is giving himself so many big looks at big titles. I really do believe deep down that he will win Grand Slams, not just one. He works extremely hard and he is as professional as one can be. He got another step closer to a Grand Slam title today, that is for sure."
So Murray has matched Bunny Austin, Britain's last finalist in 1938, but not Fred Perry our last winner in 1936. If it is any consolation Lendl will be able to remind him that it wasn't until his fifth Grand Slam Final that he finally broke through (at the age of 25) and went on to win seven more titles.
Murray neither let himself nor the nation down in losing to a tennis legend, possibly the greatest ever to carry a racket. And he won over the doubters who thought he was a choker and a loser. He was Braveheart yesterday - no one could have put himself more on the line. His time will come.