The British hope came charging out of the gates like a man on a mission and the past Champion, relegated by many to the autumn of his career, seemed to stumble before his resolve as the early salvoes were exchanged. And so it appeared at the end of the first set that Andy Murray had indeed matured enough, both in skill and in temperament, to finally bring home the gleaming Wimbledon trophy and that Roger Federer had allowed the possibility of perhaps his last ever victory dance at this, his favourite patch of grass, to get the better of him.
Certainly, the understandably partisan crowd in and around Centre court wanted to believe that, as did the driven matriarch, the over-awed by the sense of occasion commentators and perhaps, many of the fans watching at home. But then, somewhere along the line, the script went awry. Something changed.
Was it that, in the end, it was simply superior skill and game-play that prevailed? Certainly not. Even the most die-hard of Federer fans would admit that the Man was playing worse than he had throughout the tournament; in fact, he looked a shadow of his form in the semis, where – to many – he won an even unlikelier victory. As for Murray, right till the end, his defence was nothing short of Nadalesque and some of his forehand winners were like watching Federer himself play.
Was it, as many opined, the closing of the roof that turned the tide in the struggling Champion’s favour? Those who watched know that the unforced errors coming from him didn’t let up in the slightest after the rain break and, if anything, the shanks were going even wider.
In the opinion of this fan, it perhaps came down to just this: As early as the second set- in a long drawn battle for a service hold- Murray was already starting to look ragged, an inexplicable frustration was beginning to rear its unseemly head . Federer, on the other hand, at no point in the match looked like he had stepped out of the shower any longer than 5 minutes ago. Perhaps, even more importantly, at no point did he look as if was participating in anything remotely more mentally exacting than a game of scrabble in the comfort of his suite.
As long as Murray rode the initial wave of dominance- and Federer scratched and shanked at the other end – , he seemed poised for imminent victory. But at the first signs of any real resistance from the Champion, the ghosts of 4 grand slam finals without a set won, appeared to take a firm hold on the head of the brave young Scot. And eventually, haunt him out of the equation, albeit with Federer stepping up his own game just enough to seal the deal.
Perhaps, in the end, it was neither skill nor attrition that ruled the day. Perhaps, it was simply belief. One couldn’t keep believing long enough and the other, just never stopped believing.