I thought last year’s Olympic Games was an event never to be matched, and that’s probably true but this weekend was a microcosm of what Jess Ennis, Mo Farah, Chris Hoy, David Weir, the rowers and the rest of Team GB served up in terms of sporting atmosphere. For the thousands of Lions fans in Australia and for the tennis theatre that is Centre Court, they were never to be forgotten days.
The sporting world can seem insular at times, but the truth is that many top performers are also fans of other disciplines.
There may have been only a solitary Scot, Richie Gray, in the Lions squad for the final Test but that would not have stopped Dunblane’s most famous son from thinking there could be a domino effect in terms of the support he would get when he
walked out for his second Wimbledon final.
Normally so polite and even handed, SW19 was going to be unashamedly partisan.
Murray is, of course, a sole competitor, but he has his team, led by coach Ivan Lendl, twice a Wimbledon finalist although never a winner. Appointed at the start of 2012, Murray has now won an Olympic Gold medal and two Grand Slams in 19 months, with
the outwardly impassive Lendl rarely raising a smile.
Perhaps that never happy, never satisfied approach is what has driven Murray through from being a serious contender to being a serious winner. Murray’s physique has been tweaked too. He is
lean but now more powerful than Tim Henman, who regularly got into challenging positions but couldn’t convert them.
So credit Lendl, and credit Warren Gatland too. Men who prepare others to go and play at the highest level and draw every ounce out of them are a different breed to us mere mortals. Yes there are technical skills to be honed, but they also
instill that unstinting desire to compete and never give up a cause. They are not easily swayed and, as Gatland showed in his selection for Saturday, they have unshakeable belief.
The story should have been that Brian O’Driscoll’s fourth Lions tour ended with him captaining the team to a series win.
The series was secured but with “BOD” sat in the stand, left out by Gatland, for whom emotion was not a factor. Picking the right team was all he was interested in. Halfpenny’s worth belied his name time and again on the trip, and any Fantasy
League values for North and Corbisiero next season will have climbed too. The reputations of Jonathan Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Parling and O’Brien were all enhanced, and for skipper Warburton, a tour cut short by injury still had the most joyous of endings.
I saw estimates that around 40,000 fans from these shores had travelled to support the Lions. Some may have been in the air coming home when Murray and Djokovic were in the heat of battle on Sunday afternoon.
The first three games took 20 minutes and by that stage Djokovic had called for a baseball cap. When he dispensed with it he was two sets down and fleetingly threatened a revival, rattling off four games in a row in the third set but in between Murray held the upper hand, backed by those
15,000 tennis nuts lucky enough to have tickets.
His first serve had more zip and there were far fewer unforced errors but Djokovic at less than 100% is still better than almost everybody else – except on Sunday, and except when it’s Andy Murray, revisiting the scene of his Olympic Gold medal.
That victory, when he beat Djokovic in the semi final, quickly cut short the disappointment of losing at Wimbledon a year ago. The imputus
had swung, and he won the US Open soon afterwards. True, Djokovic beat him in the Australian final earlier this year but fate said this was Murray’s year – after all Virginia Wade won in 1977, it was 77 years since Fred Perry won, and Sunday was
July the 7th.
Aorangi Terrace may have been christened Henman Hill when Tim came on the scene, but Murray Mound (or more esthetically Murrayfield, surely) has never seen a day quite like it.
Photograph : Copyright http://www.metro.co.uk