July 7, 2013
THE atmosphere on Centre Court was electric.
More than 15,000 tennis fans had crammed in to watch the 2013 Wimbledon men’s singles final, while millions of people tuned in on TV around the world.
The shoulders that bore the weight of expectation belonged to Andy Murray. The then 26-year-old had won his first Grand Slam title – the US Open – the previous year. But could he really beat winning-machine Novak Djokovic?
Even after he took the first set 6-4, we were pleased, but hardly over-optimistic. Scottish sports fans know better than to expect good outcomes. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is in our DNA.
When Andy clinched the second set 7-5 we told ourselves it was probably just a temporary high point on the way to a glorious, if inevitable, loss.
At any moment the ruthless Serb would shift up a gear, put the pedal to the metal and destroy poor wee Andy over the next three sets.
Ehh, naw. He wouldn’t.
The mono-voiced Scot finished him off with a 6-4 kicking in the final set.
The nation rose to its feet the moment those wonderful words – “Game, set and match, Murray” – could be heard above the joyful delirium.
It was what British tennis fans had been waiting for.
In fact, they’d been waiting 77 years – 117 years if you were Scottish.
Andy Murray had become the first Brit to be crowned men’s single champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
Not only that, he was only the second Scotsman ever to clinch the title – Harold Mahony was the other one way back in 1896.
That he would do it in straight sets was something no one could have imagined.
There was something about the victory that appealed to the Scottish underdog mentality.
Okay, it wasn’t like he was some rank outsider, a 1000-1 shot whose only training had been hitting a hairy old tennis ball against a garage wall in some housing scheme in darkest Glasgow.
But Djokovic was such a dominant force and the pressure of history bore down so greatly upon Andy Murray that it seemed almost inconceivable to many north of the Border that he could pull it off when push came to thwack.
In any case, he was Scottish. And that meant it was against his religion – and possibly Scots law – to win a major global sporting tournament.
Thankfully nobody had told Andy that, and he joined the precious few who have bucked the trend and won – won big.
The only problem is now we’ve tasted the sweet flavour of victory we want more, whatever the sport.
Are you listening Wee Gordon Strachan?
The World Cup qualifiers start next year . . .