LONDON – Andy Murray needed one more point, one solitary point, to win Wimbledon – a title he yearned to earn for himself, of course, and also for his country.
Britain had endured 77 years since one of its own claimed the men's trophy at the revered tournament referred to simply as The Championships, and now here was Murray, on the brink of triumph after 3 hours of grueling tennis against top-seeded Novak Djokovic under a vibrant sun at Centre Court.
Up 40-love, Murray failed to convert his first match point. And his second. And then, yes, his third, too.
On and on the contest, and accompanying tension, stretched,
Murray unable to close it, Djokovic unwilling to yield, the minutes certainly feeling like hours to those playing and those watching. Along came three break points for Djokovic, all erased. Finally, on Murray's fourth chance to end it, Djokovic dumped a backhand into the net.
The final was over.
The wait was over.
A year after coming oh-so-close by losing in the title match at the All England Club, the No. 2-ranked Murray beat No. 1 Djokovic of Serbia 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 Sunday to become Wimbledon's champion in a test of will and skill between a pair of men with mirror-image defensive styles that created lengthy points brimming with superb shots.
"That last game will be the toughest game I'll play in my career. Ever," said Murray, who was born in Dunblane, Scotland, and is the first British man to win the grass-court Grand Slam tournament since Fred Perry in 1936. "Winning Wimbledon – I still can't believe it. Can't get my head around that. I can't believe it."
For several seasons, Murray was the outsider looking in, while Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic collected 29 out of 30 Grand Slam titles.
But now Murray has clearly and completely turned the Big 3 into a Big 4, having reached the finals at the last four major tournaments he entered (he withdrew from the French Open in May because of a bad back). And he's now a two-time Slam champion, having defeated Djokovic in five sets at the U.S. Open in September.
All this from a guy who lost his first four major finals, including against Federer at Wimbledon in 2012. After that defeat, Murray's voice cracked and tears rolled as he told the crowd, "I'm getting closer."
How prescient. Four weeks later, on the same court, he beat Federer for a gold medal at the London Olympics, a transformative victory if ever there was one. And 52 weeks later, on the same court, he beat Djokovic for the Wimbledon championship.
"You need that self-belief in the important moments," observed Djokovic, a six-time major champion, "and he's got it now."
Murray's mother, Judy, who is Britain's Fed Cup captain, agreed that the setback 12 months ago "was a turning point in some ways."
"Every time you have a really tough loss, a loss that really hurts you," she said, "I think you learn a lot about how to handle the occasions better going forward."
Born a week apart in May 1987, Murray and Djokovic have known each other since they were 11, and they grasp the ins and outs of each other's games so well.
"You've got to fight so hard to get past Novak, because he's such an incredible competitor, an amazing athlete, and it's never over 'til it's over," Judy Murray said.
This was their 19th meeting on tour (Djokovic leads 11-8), and their fourth in a Grand Slam final, including three in the past year. Both are fantastic returners, and Murray broke seven times Sunday, once more than Djokovic lost his serve in the preceding six matches combined.
In the late going, Djokovic was taking some shortcuts, repeatedly trying drop shots or rushing to the net to shorten points, but neither strategy tended to work.
"He was getting some incredible shots on the stretch and running down the drop shots," Djokovic said. "He was all over the court."
Admittedly feeling the effects of his five-setter Friday against Juan Martin del Potro – at 4 hours, 43 minutes, it's the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history – Djokovic was far more erratic than Murray, with particular problems on the backhand side. Djokovic wound up with 40 unforced errors, nearly double Murray's 21.
"I wasn't patient enough," Djokovic said.
Ah, patience. The British needed plenty when it comes to their precious, prestigious tennis tournament.
Thanks to Murray, the wait is over.