Andy Murray beat Milos Raonis 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-2)
The past is always present, especially at Wimbledon.
Yesterday, as Andy Murray tossed his racquet and wrist bands into the Centre Court crowd before weeping in his chair, Fred Perry could finally vanish from the tennis landscape as the last British male to hold multiple titles – a position held since the mid 1930s.
Cool and efficient Murray stood up to the power and serve volley game that was beyond that of Roger Federer in the semifinal to beat Canada's Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6(2).
“You know, last time it was just pure relief,” said Murray. “I didn’t really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I’m going to make sure I enjoy this one more.”
In the players' box and behind the microphone Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe played out an old reel subplot that also reached back in time. Doleful Lendl, no more light-hearted than in the 1980s when he ground players to dust, and the explosive McEnroe were both on the coaching staff: this time the American's hopes for Raonic being dashed.
This was Murray’s day to write his own history at the expense of the sixth seed, the first male Canadian to reach a Grand Slam final, two years after Eugenie Bouchard made her run to the ladies’ singles final. Murray now holds three Grand Slam titles, two Wimbledon and one US Open, after a fortnight where the template for success always appeared to be his miraculous back court and returning game.
Yesterday those strengths turned lost causes into golden opportunity and sent the younger man to despair. Murray’s courageous passing forehands repeatedly stunned the 25-year-old as he boldly approached the net to beat Murray the Federer way.
While Raonic had the booming serve, it was Murray throughout the match who somehow sent back 140 mph plus deliveries, his racquet straight like a cricket bat successfully redirecting the ball, the crowd gasping at his anticipation and reaction. He was aced only eight times in the match.
It was Murray, too, whose consistent, surgical 118 mph serve was most cost effective, Raonic earning only two break points in the fifth game of the third set and Murray saving those. It was also Murray’s nerve that stood up. His tiebreak wins in the second and third sets crushed Raonic. In the first, Murray took a 6-1 lead; in the second the 29-year-old went 5-0 ahead. There was no way back from either.
Raonic put Federer away in five sets through playing his big forehand and wonderful volleying game but when the match was leveraging up and the intensity bearing down it was peerless Murray forcing winners.
“I was keeping up with him but when it counted I wasn’t able to get on top,” said Raonic.
Steely and determined, he continued. “I’m going to work on everything. I’m not going to leave any stone unturned. I’m going to try to get fitter, stronger. I’m going to try to improve my return game, improve my serve. I can improve there. Improve my efficiency coming forward. There’s not one thing that I’m not going to try to improve.”
The match was always hinging on service games and there Murray made the plays, missing an opportunity in the third game but earning two more break points in the fifth. One of his many attacking forehands found Raonic at the net but the Canadian’s volley failed and after 32 minutes Murray was serving for 5-3.
The Scot squeezed four break points from the Raonic serve in the second set, the third and fourth at 4-4. On the final one Murray returned a 141 mph serve but put his forehand into the net, moving the set to a tiebreak. After a Hail Mary fetch and return from Raonic at 3-1 up, Murray carved a beautiful forehand winner for 4-1 before running away with the tiebreak 7-3.
Raonic did get a couple of looks in during the fifth game of the third set but a crushed forehand from Murray and a slice into the net from Raonic pushed the set to another shootout. Murray eagerly built his points to 6-2 before the set and match fell to him in two hours 48 minutes.
“Not been afraid of losing. Learning from most of my losses,” said Murray, who has lost more finals than he has won. Of 10 finals played, the Scot had won just twice.
“I’m proud that I managed to do it again after a lot of tough losses in the latter stages of the slams over the last couple of years.
“I’m also aware of how difficult these competitions are to win once. To do it twice here, an event where there is a lot of pressure on me . . . I’m very proud with how I’ve handled that over the years.”
Murray has had more grass court wins than anyone in 2016, winning 12 and losing none. Wimbledon is his third title this year, having won in Rome on clay and Queens on grass.
“It’s very rare that you get through a slam without playing Novak, Roger or Rafa,” said Murray. “I still feel my best tennis is ahead of me, that I have an opportunity to win more. “Everyone’s time comes at different stages. Some come in their early 20s, some mid 20s. Hopefully mine is still to come.”