We Once Found Him Flawed

Wimbledon, Final

(2) Murray d. (1) Djokovic, 6/4 7/5 6/4

Andy Murray has defeated Novak Djokovic in straight sets to claim the 2013 edition of Wimbledon, concluding a stretch of nearly eight decades in which the British furiously awaited their next local champion, and a slightly shorter period in which the rest of the world wished they’d be quieter about it. Now everyone is happy. Actually, in order to know happiness, all you had to do was look at Murray’s face after he won. His joy, for a rarity, was unrestrained and uncomplicated. Clive Brunskill/Getty Images EuropeAfter he’d won the US Open last year his primary reaction had looked like relief, quickly supplanted by an urgent need to locate his watch. After Sunday’s win it was unfractured bliss.

Excepting perhaps the victor himself, no one seems happier than the English press. The Daily Mail, as ever the Platonic Ideal of reticence, devoted the first ten pages of its Monday edition to the new Wimbledon champion. After the Australian Open final, the tabloids’ strategy had been to elevate Djokovic to stratospheric heights of mastery, so that Murray, merely by staying with him for a time, might thus be elevated in turn. It turns out this concept works even better when Murray wins: Djokovic is still gliding about up with the weather balloons, while Murray has soared past him into orbit.

The English press had apparently failed to heed Murray’s pre-tournament plea to keep expectations to a mild frenzy, given that he didn’t expect to do very well. It was wrong to call him the favourite. Of course, no one bought it. There are previously undiscovered colonies of lemurs in Madagascar that could see this for the futile attempt to deflect attention that it was. (They’ve since been located by their derisive snorts, which they couldn’t contain.)

As to the match itself, there’s little to be said, although to really capture the sense of gradual and repetitious unfolding, that little would need to be said in Entish, a language in which I am unfortunately not fluent. It was over in straight sets, and while straight sets can sometimes be deceptively skewed, these were mostly just very long. The first five games took an even thirty minutes, although it felt quite a lot longer, partially because the quality was exceptionally low. It looked rather like the women’s final might have looked, had Marion Bartoli been afflicted by the same voodoo curse that had befallen Sabine Lisicki, had the Frenchwoman lost her mind rather than playing out of it. Both men were bad, and often at the same time. Through the early going, too many of the points were only won because someone had to.

Thankfully they lifted, although they never ascended far beyond the foothills, and frequently tumbled back down again, Djokovic especially, and often literally. Both regularly put together far finer matches against other players, but only occasionally against each other. In general this match-up is defined by similarities rather than contrasts, and their immense defensive skills mean points can go on forever. Cognisant of this fact, it was surprisingly Djokovic who cracked first, and took to rushing the net, with mixed results. Or perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising.

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