Murray wins in straight sets
Notches third grand slam title
Raonic was playing in first grand slam final
Andy Murray ended 77 years of British angst when he won Wimbledon in 2013. It didn’t take the Scot anywhere near as long to collect a second title at tennis’ most beloved tournament.
Murray cruised past big-serving Milos Raonic 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-2) in southwest London on Sunday to register a third grand slam title overall and first since downing Novak Djokovic at the All England Club three years ago.
“I feel happier this time,” Murray told reporters. “I feel, yeah, more content this time. I feel like this was sort of more for myself more than anything, and my team as well. We’ve all worked really hard to help get me in this position.
“Last time it was just pure relief, and I didn’t really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I’m going to make sure I enjoy this one more than the others.”
When the aforementioned Djokovic – currently the most dominant men’s tennis player on the planet – was unexpectedly sent packing in the third round by Sam Querrey, the second-ranked Murray became the prohibitive favorite.
He came through and while he didn’t have to confront any of the “Big Four,” it would be harsh to suggest he didn’t merit the success: This was Murray’s third grand slam final of the season. He has, no doubt, been men’s tennis’ second best performer in 2016.
With his victory, the 29-year-old avoided becoming the first man in the Open Era to lose the opening three grand slam finals in a season.
His coach, Ivan Lendl, is one of only two men to have lost more grand slam finals than Murray’s eight but he won a lot, too, picking up eight majors.
Just how much the retired great aided his charge in the past month only Murray knows but the record will show that the usually expressionless Lendl – who rejoined Team Murray in June after a split in 2014 – has been in Murray’s corner for all three of his grand slam titles. Murray is, however, visibly calmer with the American around.
Lendl had tears in his eyes in the player box when the two-hour, 48-minute tussle concluded; Murray wept into his towel in his chair.
“There were opportunities for Andy to explode today and he didn’t,” Pat Cash, who beat Lendl in the 1987 final, told CNN. “It’s been fascinating to see why it’s taken him so long to get a grip on his emotions when he’s playing tennis tournaments.
“Today is the clearest example yet of what he’s had to do the last handful of years. Maybe Ivan is the only one he wants to listen to.”
Raonic made immense strides at Wimbledon as he became the first Canadian man to make a grand slam final. The world No. 7 came from two sets down to win a match for the first time in his career – against David Goffin in the fourth round – and ousted the hugely popular seven-time champion Roger Federer in five sets in the semifinals.
“Phenomenal” was how he described his two weeks at SW19.
It would have been even better with a win Sunday yet his top weapon, the serve, wasn’t firing the way it needed to be against Murray.
Raonic, remarkably, only produced three aces in the first 1½ sets and eight overall. He’d averaged 23 prior to the final. Mind you, Murray’s deep return stance and the pressure he exerts by simply being one of the game’s finest returners impacted Raonic’s effectiveness.
“I think Andy did really good returning,” said Cash. “But if you hit the marks and spots exactly, it’s going to be an ace, so Milos didn’t exactly hit the marks. They might play tomorrow and Milos might hit 20 aces but this is what grand slam finals are about. It’s not routine.”
The 25-year-old’s backhand remains a work in progress and Raonic – who added Lendl’s arch-rival John McEnroe to his coaching setup last month – was unable to capitalize on his half chances. His approaches to the net often lacked bite and the result was Murray prospering.
“I think that it was quite a close match,” Riccardo Piatti, Raonic’s co-coach who flew in for the final, told reporters. “Murray has more experience than Milos.
“Milos can play better. For me it means the returning game and not (giving Murray) too much rhythm. He needed to attack more in the returning game.”
Raonic’s serve “wasn’t great,” added the Italian. “But for me his serving depends on how he is returning.”
Raonic had extended Murray to five sets in the Australian Open semifinals and then to the maximum three sets in a Wimbledon warmup in London last month.
“I was keeping up with him,” Raonic told reporters. “But then when it counted, I wasn’t able to get on top.”
If he was suffering from nerves at the outset, Raonic sure didn’t show it in the first game, holding comfortably as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge looked on.
Saving a break chance at 1-1, Raonic wasn’t as fortunate at 3-3. He was lucky to get away with a poor, sliced approach at 15-40 but on the next point a similar approach was punished by Murray. Murray cleverly prompted a volley error.
Raonic would hold an opportunity at 0-15 with Murray serving for the set but in what was a sign of things to come, couldn’t win the ensuing point.
A charitable Murray let Raonic survive on break points to start the second and in the seventh game. Leading Murray 4-3, once again at 0-15 Raonic erred, this time on a backhand return.
Raonic happily saw two break points dissipate at 4-4 – in a game when Murray repelled a 147 mile-per-hour serve – and he now had the chance to capture the set. But at 5-4, 0-15, a sloppy backhand slice found the net, quashing the brief momentum.
He started the 12th game with a backhand miscue and at 15-all didn’t do enough with a forehand approach.
Murray proceeded to race to a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak, playing flawlessly, and Raonic was realistically finished: No man in the Open Era has ever trailed 2-0 in sets in a Wimbledon final and triumphed.
To sum up his afternoon in the sunshine, Raonic made unforced errors on his lone two break points at 2-2 in the third.
He admirably took, though, Murray to another tiebreak. Murray once again was exquisite in storming to a 6-1 lead and clinched the championship when Raonic sent a backhand into the net.
Raonic – one of tennis’ most thoughtful speakers – vowed to do all he could to attain the next level.
“I’m going to work on everything,” he promised. “I’m not going to leave any stone unturned. I’m going to try to get myself back in this position, try to be better in this position.
“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 athlete that he is, Murray will always try to improve and make up ground in majors on fellow “Big Four” members Djokovic, Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“It’s very rare that you get through a slam without playing Novak, Roger or Rafa,” he said. “But I still feel like my best tennis is ahead of me, that I have an opportunity to win more.”
Murray is doing just fine at the moment.