WIMBLEDON: Win a triumph for Scotland
WIMBLEDON, England — Andy Murray still looked the same Monday morning after a Wimbledon title and 90 minutes of sleep. He still sounded the same, too, with his droll drone of a voice, which, come to think of it, always sounds a bit groggy.
But the questions were different, delightfully different, if you were Murray.
What about a knighthood? Will it be hard to stay hungry after achieving your three obvious goals? Can you talk about what this Wimbledon victory means to British people?
That last question must have sounded particularly novel, given that Murray, like every top male British tennis player from Buster Mottram to Tim Henman, had spent his career trying to live up to Fred Perry, who won the last of his three Wimbledon singles titles in 1936.
“To finally have done it, it will be nice as a nation that we don’t have to look at Wimbledon as a negative,” Murray said.
“It can be viewed as a positive. I just hope it’s not another 70-odd years again.”
Murray said so after posing with the men’s trophy in front of Perry’s statue in the Monday sunshine.
It is worth underscoring that Virginia Wade did win the women’s singles title here in 1977. Wade was at Wimbledon as a BBC commentator, and it was poignant to watch her enter the gates of the All England Club one day last week. She walked through on her own in her flat-soled shoes and sunglasses, her hair gone gray.
No one accosted her. No one shouted her name, aimed a smartphone in her direction or extended so much as a program to autograph as she made her way toward Centre Court.
It may take another 36 years for Murray to have the same sort of treatment and peace at Wimbledon.
The attempt to match Perry had grown, through the decades, into a quest and also a reliable hook on which to hang the British narrative every July.
Murray’s straight-sets victory over Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final will stir up all sorts of other possibilities.
In the rankings released Monday, Djokovic is still No. 1. Murray is still No. 2, followed by David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who lost in the second round and fell outside the top four for the first time since June 2003.
Murray, the holder of the U.S. Open and Wimbledon titles, now has a platform from which to try to become the first British player to reach No. 1 since the tour rankings began in 1973.
“It’s a tough one for me because right now I won two Slams, was in the final of a third one and hold Olympic gold, and I’m nowhere near being No. 1,” Murray said. “I don’t know exactly why that is. I may need to be more consistent in the other events, and obviously missing the French Open didn’t help that. But I’d rather not get to No. 1 and win more Grand Slams than win no more Grand Slams and get to No. 1.”
That is a common sentiment in this Slam-centric era, with much focus and energy on the four major events. But Murray clearly made the right choice to skip the French Open and address his ailing back in time to make a full-bore run at Wimbledon.
Asked before the final what might change if Murray did finally win, Peter McNamara, a former Australian star turned coach, smiled and said, “You will call him Sir.”
A knighthood does seem likely, given that Bradley Wiggins received one last year after winning an Olympic gold and the Tour de France.
“I think it’s a nice thing to have or be offered,” Murray said. “I think just because everyone is waiting for such a long time for this, that’s probably what will be suggested. But I don’t know if it merits that.”
David Cameron, the British prime minister, who was in the royal box on Sunday at Wimbledon, told reporters that he certainly thought it did. And the BBC reported Monday that Queen Elizabeth II had sent Murray a “private message.”
More news on the knighthood is surely to come, but Murray’s achievement has a twist in that he is Scottish, not English.
“It’s a great thing; it’s a great thing for Scotland, too, because Scotland feels like they’ve taken something away from the English,” said Pat Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion from Australia who has long lived in Britain.
One of the royal box sideshows Sunday was Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, waving the saltire, the white-and-blue Scottish flag, in the row behind Cameron after the victory.
No Scotsman had won the singles at Wimbledon since Harold Mahony in 1896. Salmond was later asked on BBC Radio whether Murray’s achievement had been a triumph for Britain.
“Absolutely, and for tennis fans everywhere,” Salmond said. “Let everyone enjoy the triumph. But you will allow us just the little sneaky thing of the first Scot since 1896. Let us wave our saltires.”
Only one name will go on the trophy, but tennis at the highest level has now become a team event. Murray, once in mediocre shape and prone to frequent fits of anger, has transformed himself into a hyperfit, much more focused force with the help of an extensive support group.
But Murray’s rise to champion clearly coincides with his decision to hire the former No. 1 Ivan Lendl as his coach just before the 2012 season. Lendl, a Czech who later took U.S. citizenship, though he could relate to Murray when he agreed to join his team. Lendl won eight Grand Slam singles titles after losing his first four Grand Slam finals. He never won Wimbledon.
“He’s been very patient with me; I’m just happy I managed to do it for him,” Murray said.
Onward Team Murray goes then, toward a defense of the U.S. Open title, and eventually, to defending at Wimbledon next year with the British drought well and truly over.
“I hope I don’t lose hunger,” Murray said. “I think I should be able to use this as motivation. I know what it’s like losing in a Wimbledon final, and I know what it’s like winning one, and it’s a lot better winning. So the hard work is worth it, and I just need to make sure I don’t get sidetracked by anything.”