What a weekend to be British and what a Sunday to be Scottish.
Andy Murray won Wimbledon, the British and Irish Lions beat Australia in rugby, and Britain’s Chris Froome took the lead in the Tour de France. Even the weather drew cheers, with temperatures reaching 30 for the first time this year.
Murray’s win was the highlight and it sent the entire country into wild celebration, from London to his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland, and beyond. In defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, Murray became the first men’s champion from Britain since Fred Perry in 1936. The victory was also only his second Grand Slam win and it came after he lost in the final last year to Roger Federer.
“I hope you guys enjoyed it,” Murray said. “It feels slightly different to last year.”
Understanding the significance of the moment, he added: “I understand how much everyone wanted to see a British winner at Wimbledon and I hope everyone enjoyed it.”
Anticipation of a Murray victory had been building in Britain long before Wimbledon started. He came into the event having won the Olympic gold medal at Wimbledon last summer and the U.S. Open a few weeks later.
But he had suffered from a series of injuries lately and pulled out of this year’s French Open in May with back pain. He seemed to regain his form in June by winning a warm-up tournament on grass in London.
As top seeds Federer and Rafael Nadal fell away in the early rounds of Wimbledon, the pressure on Murray intensified. His every move, on and off the court, was scrutinized, with reporters trailing his mother, Judy, his girlfriend, Kim Sears, and his many celebrity backers, including members of the Royal family. Murray tried to keep things in perspective, telling reporters at one point that he would be happy with his career if he never won Wimbledon.
By the time he beat Poland’s towering Jerzy Janowicz in the semi-final on Friday, and Djokovic also advanced by defeating Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, the country was in a frenzy. But there was also much hand-wringing. Djokovic had played with confidence throughout the tournament, dispatching nearly every opponent, except del Potro, with relative ease. The Serb was ranked No. 1 in the world, he had an 11-7 career record against Murray, and he’d won six Grand Slam titles. For Murray to win would almost take a miracle.
On Sunday thousands of people gathered at Wimbledon for the final and giant television screens popped up in public squares across London and elsewhere. In Dunblane, hundreds of locals packed the community centre to watch their hometown hero. Until Murray’s success, the small town outside Edinburgh had been better known as the place where Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and one teacher in the gym of the Dunblane Primary School in 1996. Murray was a student at the time and he knew Hamilton well. His class was on its way to the gym when Hamilton opened fire and then shot himself.
“It is just nice being able to do something the town is proud of,” Murray told the BBC before the tournament.
After Murray won, many in the Dunblane crowd waved Scottish flags and broke out in choruses of Flower of Scotland.
The final was not without its politics. British Prime Minister David Cameron showed up along with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, was also there, no doubt hoping Murray’s win will bolster support for Scottish independence, which will be decided in a referendum next year.
Murray “has firmly secured his place in Scottish sporting folklore,” Salmond said. “He is one of the greats of the game and his success today will inspire a new generation of tennis champions.”
Murray has now been crowned “Murray the Magnificent” by some media, and there is talk of a knighthood.
Even Djokovic seemed to get caught up in the moment. “I know how much it meant to the crowd,” he said. “It was an absolute pleasure to play this match, it’s the most valuable tennis tournament in the world.”