9 July 2012

NO ACTOR had ever fulfilled the role of the villain in the Wimbledon amphitheater like the summer rain during the last two weeks. It vanquished in cold blood the aspirations of a 25-year-old brave Scot called Andy Murray.

In the process it also shattered the hopes of a nation that had waited for an end to their grand slam title drought for far too long.

At the same time after three hours and twenty four minutes of beguiling action it gifted the imperial Swiss Roger Federer with a magnificent seventh crown, tying the record shared by William Renshaw and Pete Sampras, who will be thirty one next month. On Monday when the new ATP rankings are announced Federer will also reclaim the number one ranking from Novak Djokovic.

It all began according to Team Murray’s strategy of focusing more on the dynamics and lesser in the form.

A former British two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman had suggested that Murray should keep the ball out of Federer’s comfort zone but rather deep closer to the baseline forcing Federer to make errors.

Federer was vary in the beginning. Murray on the other hand was executing his game plan brilliantly. He broke Federer in the first game.

Federer responded by deploying sliced ground strokes in a bid to neutralize his adversary’s ploy. It seemed to work and he immediately broke back. But Murray knew that this was his chance of a life time. He ran down everything that Federer threw at him. He clinched the first set 6-4 with the crowd roaring behind him.

The second set followed in the same configuration with Murray having the upper hand. Murray serving at 5-6 a tie break appeared to be in the cards. Suddenly the Swiss raised his level to heights unseen so far in the match. His execution of a drop shot was sublime. He followed it up with a magnificent volley and regained amplitude by grabbing the 
second set 7-5.

Murray still had quite a bit of fight left in him and he wouldn’t let matters go Federer’s way. The turning point in the match arrived after a grueling service game at 2-3 when he was broken.

All the composure he had accrued during the six months with Ivan Lendl as his coach began to desert him. He began to trip and fall chasing Federer’s drop shots and angled cross court volleys.

Into the third set and the score tied at 1-1 with Federer serving at 40-0 the rain arrived and the decision was taken to close the retractable roof. When play resumed after thirty five minutes the Swiss came back to center court in vintage mode. Murray appeared like a bruised gladiator who had lost his armour. Federer took the third set 6-3 leaving Murray with a daunting task ahead.

In set four when he took the service game at 4-5 the 15,000-strong crowd chanted ‘Andy, you can do it’. But the majestic Swiss didn’t let him. The crowd rose as a Murray volley sailed past and landed in the tramline giving Federer the championship point (6-4).

During the emotional interview that followed at the center court Murray felt there was a lump in his throat and broke down saying: “I was getting asked the other day after I won my semifinals, ‘Is this your best chance? Roger’s 30 now.’ He’s not bad for a 30-year-old.

He played a great tournament and showed what fight he still has left in him.” From the player’s box his girlfriend Kim Sears and mother Judy Murray watched with tear stained eyes. Federer was gracious while speaking to reporters and reassured Murray: “I really do believe deep down in me you will win grand slams, not 
just one.”

Quizzed about how he felt holding the trophy after a lapse of three years, Federer said laughing out loud: “I never believed that she had left me”.

A day earlier after a thirty-plus Serena Williams had won the ladies’ championship a female television reporter asked her if ‘thirty was the new twenty’. Casting an eye over Venus who was busy clicking pictures of her younger sister in her pink i-phone from the player’s box, Serena was non-committal saying, “you never know”. The following after noon the tag line spread like wild fire on either side of the Atlantic.

As life goes on, proverbial situations considered clichéd become undone once in a while. It is said that all center courts are like courtesans, and that they have always had a better thing for the younger man. Ironically though on Sunday a 15,000-strong crowd at Wimbledon’s center court and television viewers all across the world found that it was not always the case. Once the rhapsody of the crush wore out she invariably came back seeking the warmth of the older 
man’s arms.

This article appeared in the daily newspaper ‘Khaleej Times’ published from Dubai on 10 July 2012.

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