There is no place like home and, with the sun on his back and the ball leaving his racket with a pleasing thump, Andy Murray made full use of the growing affection for him to win his second Wimbledon title in four years and the third major of his career.
In his seventh successive match on Centre Court he defeated the sixth seed, Milos Raonic, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 in two hours and 47 minutes on a pleasant Sunday afternoon with a light breeze whipping around their pristine white shorts.
England famously played every match of their winning 1966 World Cup campaign at Wembley Stadium; 50 years later Murray did not waste a similar advantage on the familiar, manicured turf at the home of tennis.
Murray sobbed uncontrollably on his chair at the end – and was there a tear in Ivan Lendl’s eye? Surely not. Once he had recovered the winner said courtside: “I’ve had some great moments here and some tough losses and I’m proud to have my hands on the trophy again.
“I played really good stuff today. Milos has had a great few weeks on the grass. He’s one of the harder workers out there. And a huge thank-you to everyone who came out to support me. The prime minister’s here as well. Playing in a Wimbledon final is tough but I wouldn’t want to be prime minister. It’s an impossible job.”
Looking towards Lendl, he joked: “He’s just lucky.” The best coach he has ever had smiled back.
Raonic said: “It’s a difficult challenge. Andy’s playing great and he deserves to win here for a second time. I’m going to do everything I can to be back for another chance. It’s been a phenomenal two weeks. I keep plugging away. There’s nothing I want more than to be back here.”
Murray served efficiently and within himself, hit his groundstrokes cleanly and with precision and Raonic did not threaten his serve until the fifth game of the third set but could not break him. Wins do not come a lot more straightforward.
The match lacked the intensity of Roger Federer’s quarter-final win against Marin Cilic and the drama of Raonic’s deconstruction of the wounded Swiss in the semi-finals but there was much to admire in Murray’s clinical victory against an improving 25-year-old opponent in the best grasscourt form of his life and owner of a serve to frighten any inattentive line-caller.
Murray was just too clever for the often robotic and predictable Canadian, passing him at will as he repeatedly charged the net. He doused his much vaunted serve, too, and generally dictated the rallies to win his third major in his 11th final. Novak Djokovic notwithstanding, there surely are a few more to come, most probably at Wimbledon, 20 minutes drive from his home in Surrey.
Murray started this final with a far more assured racket hand than the one that trembled in his last service game in 2013, the day he beat Djokovic for the second time in a slam final.
There is no escaping the pressure or the privilege of history.
Raonic, in his first final, did not have such a storied a past to call on but he stilled his nerves to come through an early break point and began shoving the speedometer over 130mph. He did not lack for daring either, with ball in hand or off the ground, but one of his many raids on the net behind the slice cost him his serve in the seventh game, as Murray teased him into a forehand error.
It took Raonic 35 minutes to crack his first ace – 138mph into the ad corner – for 40-30 in the ninth game, as he held to stay in the set. Murray closed it out with a simple tapped forehand volley and looked comfortably in control.
Murray stunned Raonic with a crosscourt backhand return of his 127mph serve for deuce in the first game of the second set and the Canadian, clearly shaken, double-faulted but held. Had he cracked there, he might have dropped dangerously off the pace.
Murray was soaking up Raonic’s power and consistently picking the angles of his advances. In the six matches before the final Raonic had hit 27, 25, 27, 22, 13 and 23 aces. After an hour against Murray he had managed one.
He found a few big serves to dig himself out of trouble in the second set but Murray was reading him with increasing ease.
In previous, drier and hotter Wimbledons, the grass would have been playing treacherously low on the final Sunday but, apart from the odd skidding ball now and again, there was still enough zip and juice in this one to give both players encouragement.
While there had not been many spectacular shots, or even rousing rallies, one Murray return, standing on the baseline at 30-30 in the ninth game to bat back a 147mph serve – by three miles an hour the fastest of the tournament – was, as players like to say, unbelievable. Raonic held – just – and Murray had to do so twice to force the tie-break.
Murray owned the marginally better career record in shootouts – 168-103 to 155-93 – but Raonic had been in 26 of them this year, losing only six, one against Federer in the semi-finals. Murray added a seventh to the Canadian’s deficit column and moved with assurance to the third set.
There have been times in the past when Murray has squandered handy leads but, so solidly had he played here, it was an hour and 53 minutes before he struck his first double fault – followed quickly by a third ace.
He had to save two break points in the fifth game and Raonic found a pair of aces to hold in the seventh game – but it was never a winning hand. He tried his hardest and the crowd appreciated his effort. Behind in the serving cycle, he hung in to force a second tie-break but Murray finished him off for the loss of two points – a near-perfect victory.
“Murray’s done a great job of returning,” was the observation on ESPN of John McEnroe, whom Raonic had co-opted as a mentor for his assault on the title. The world No2 did a great job of pretty much everything.