LONDON (AP) — Andy Murray’s first Wimbledon championship was for his country.
This one was for Andy Murray.
Dulling big serves with quick-reflex returns, conjuring up daring passing shots and playing impressively mistake-free tennis all the while, Murray beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) on Sunday for his second trophy at the All England Club and third Grand Slam title overall.
In 2013, Murray famously ended Britain’s 77-year wait for one of its own to win the men’s final at Wimbledon, a quest that became burdensome.
Now he wanted a victory to end his personal rut of three consecutive losses in major finals, including at the Australian Open in January, and French Open last month.
“It is different. I feel happier this time. I feel more content this time. I feel like this was sort of more for myself more than anything, and my team as well,” the second-seeded Murray said. “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.”
This was his 11th Grand Slam final, but the first against someone other than Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer. The sixth-seeded Raonic eliminated Federer in five sets in the semifinals Friday, and also defeated the player who stunned Djokovic in the third round, Sam Querrey.
Those wins helped Raonic become the first man representing Canada to reach a major final.
He did it, primarily, by averaging 25½ aces through six matches. But on a breezy afternoon, at a Centre Court filled with nearly 15,000 partisan fans, Murray shut down that integral part of Raonic’s game.
“This one’s going to sting,” Raonic said.
It’s been a rough few weeks for Britain, what with its vote to leave the European Union, the drop of the pound’s value, and the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who was seated in the front row of the Royal Box on Sunday, several seats over from Prince William and his wife, Kate.
During the trophy presentation, Murray joked: “Playing in a Wimbledon final’s tough, but I certainly wouldn’t like to be a prime minister. It’s an impossible job.”
Murray, a 29-year-old from Scotland, long dealt with the expectations that accompanied being Britain’s best chance to find a male champion to succeed Fred Perry, who last won the grass-court tournament in 1936. After Sunday’s victory, Murray’s mother, former British Fed Cup captain Judy, referred to that old phenomenon as, “The constant, ‘When are you going to win Wimbledon? When are you going to win Wimbledon? When are you going to win Wimbledon?'”
But her son has dealt with that and thrived, thanks to a counter-punching game and sublime returns of serve.
It took Raonic 36 minutes and five service games to record his first ace, and he wound up with only eight. Over and over, Murray managed to get the ball back, even one that came in at 147 mph.
And while Murray only broke Raonic once, to lead 4-3 in the opening set, that was all it took, because the tiebreakers were surprisingly one-way traffic.
Murray also took 50 of 65 points he served across the first two sets, not only never facing so much as a break point in that span but also being pushed to deuce merely once.
Finally, at 2-all in the third, Raonic got to 15-40 for his first — and, it turned out, only — break points, thanks to a forehand return winner off an 82 mph second serve.
“Potentially turning points,” said Carlos Moya, one of a trio of coaches for Raonic, including John McEnroe. “If he got that break, who knows what could happen?”
But Murray stood tall, taking the next four points to hold, then wheeled toward his box, pumping his right fist and yelling.
According to the official statistics, Murray made only 12 unforced errors, two in the second set. While that’s a subjective accounting, anyone watching and listening could plainly tell that he was striking the ball cleanly and confidently, a crisp thwack resonating as racket strings hit ball, much more often than not putting shots right where intended.
“Really good stuff,” Murray said.
His opponent’s take? “He was playing much better than me off the baseline,” Raonic acknowledged.
Taking it all in from Murray’s guest box, with seemingly nary a smile, was coach Ivan Lendl. They worked together when Murray won his first two Grand Slam trophies, including at the 2012 U.S. Open, then split up, before reuniting last month.
Once again, that partnership paid off, and at Wimbledon, no less.
When he sat in his sideline chair after the match concluded, Murray wiped away tears with a tournament towel.
“To do it twice here,” he said, “an event where there is a lot of pressure on me to perform well — I’m very proud with how I’ve handled that over the years.”
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