SUNSHINE POURED OVER THE CENTRE COURT LAWN at the All-England Club Sunday afternoon as Roger Federer served to begin what would be, regardless of outcome, a historic men’s Wimbledon final. Arguably the greatest player to ever grace the sport, Roger Federer would be playing to regain the #1 ranking, tying the previous record of 286 weeks as #1 set by Pete Sampras, his 17th grand slam title, breaking his previous all-time record of 16, and his seventh Wimbledon singles title, also equaling Sampras’ all-time record. His opponent, Andy Murray, would be making a bid toward his first Grand Slam title and the pride of being the first British man in 76 years to raise the Wimbledon trophy.
The pressure was on.
As the underdog, Andy Murray would have to overcome personal nerves, the weight of national expectation, and the living legend on the other side of the net in order to write history. It’s not like he hadn’t beaten Federer before. He led in victories over Federer (8 to 7) entering the match, but this time was clearly special. It also didn’t help that Murray had never overcome Federer in the two Grand Slam finals they played before.
Despite the circumstances, Murray would be off to a terrific start, breaking Federer’s serve in the opening game of the match. While Federer would battle back, brilliant footwork and exuberant groundstrokes led Murray to a decisive victory in the first set, giving him the key one-set advantage. He needed only two more and the title would be his. Not to be outdone, Federer found a new gear in the second set, holding it close until five games all, and then giving a bit extra to edge past Murray with a perfect drop volley to close out the second set without need for a tiebreak. The fans got what they came for: an even bout. The players continued this level of play early into the third set.
And then the rains came.
Any tennis fan knows what a rain delay means. When players return to the locker room and wait for the end of the delay, they have nothing else to do but think. This time to think can reverse the overall momentum of the match, and this is what happened. Three quick games after the resumption of play and a long deuce ensued. Magical shots and some painful misses from both sides peppered the 25-point game, but Federer would prevail with an unreturnable forehand winner, breaking the Murray serve. Federer was now firing on all cylinders, and Murray was becoming more and more discouraged by the point. Concluding the third set with conviction, Federer pulled ahead to lead the match. Would it be Federer writing history this day?
The crowd was divided. Indeed, Murray was one of their own; however, Federer produced masterpieces on their courts in the past. A noticeable hush settled over the crowd as the players began the fourth set. What followed was tennis that only Federer could produce. He appeared to float over the court as he played varied and confident shots. For all Federer fans, he played like he did in his 237 consecutive weeks as world number one. Before he knew it, Murray was staring down two championship points. As a Murray return landed just wide, the Swiss maestro collapsed onto the grass with tears in his eyes – the 2012 Wimbledon champion. The crowd roared in celebration of Federer’s accomplishment as well as to commend the epic effort of their own Andy Murray, who was the first British man in the Wimbledon singles final in 74 years.
Murray fought hard to hold back his emotions during his post-match speech. He humbly congratulated Federer on his victory and tearfully thanked the crowd for their support throughout the tournament. No stranger to the emotions Murray felt, Federer returned the congratulations to Murray for his excellent play throughout the tournament, adding that Murray will certainly win a Grand Slam in the future. The mutual respect between these two players sets a great example for all sportsmen everywhere.
I, for one, am looking forward to their next meeting.
Andrei holds an undergraduate degree in Honors Mathematical Physics and will attend the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics starting in August. His interests cover computer science, consumer electronics, engineering, mathematics and physics.