Andy Murray is finally a Wimbledon champion.
He has captured the most prestigious trophy in all of tennis and the admiration from the sports world. He will be enshrined forever as a tennis great during the Golden Age of men's tennis, and he is the hero of Great Britain after becoming the first British male player to win Wimbledon since 1936.
He is a living tennis legend.
Murray's quest to winning Wimbledon was a difficult and long-suffering route through triumph and adversity. Perhaps no player in tennis history has had to wear the burden of so many expectations and criticisms.
Let's take a look at Murray's epic journey through his astonishing career of resilience and growth.
Summer 2006: Hello, Tennis World
The Scotsman was a promising player as a junior, and at 19 years old, he announced himself to the tennis world by defeating the great Roger Federer. He broke the Swiss Maestro's 55-match hard-court winning streak at Cincinnati, one of only five losses for Federer's entire year. Murray's youthful form lacked pace, but the framework to his championship resume can be seen in these highlights:
Murray also worked with renowned coach Brad Gilbert and established himself as a top-20 player, showing the groundstrokes and defensive game that would become his specialty.
U.S. Open 2008: Just Happy to Be Here
He continued his ascent by briefly holding the No. 2 ranking in 2009. Nevertheless, this was a tennis landscape dominated by Federer and Rafael Nadal, and he would learn how difficult it was to compete for Grand Slam titles.
He defeated Nadal at the 2008 U.S. Open semifinals and got his big chance against Federer. It was short-lived and humiliating as he fell in straight sets. Murray could only lament in his defeat by stating the obvious, as reported by BBC Sport Tennis: "I had a great tournament but I came up against, in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game today."
It would be the first of many hard defeats for Murray in Grand Slam finals.
Australia 2010: Frustrations With Tennis Take Their Toll
Murray continued to grind away at the Grand Slam dream, but he was once again crushed in straight sets by Federer, this time in the Australian Open finals. There was more than ever a wide chasm between him and his bigger rivals who carted away the Grand Slam hardware.
The pressure was also building for Murray as the media questioned his mental strength. There were Davis Cup demands and pressure that took much of the joy away from playing tennis.
Mark Hodgkinson of The Telegraph elaborated on this with Murray's admission that, "It's not just that (Davis Cup), a lot of things that can be mentally draining and you can be subconsciously annoyed about or upset about and you need to make sure that you've got a clear head."
Murray was struggling to endure his stalemated progress. He said, "You just need to try and make sure you keep all of your problems and issues out of it and you go back to focusing on tennis, which is my job. Hopefully I'll be able to do that."
Australia 2012: Ivan Lendl Arrives
Murray hit the same wall in the next two years. He couldn't overcome Nadal, but now Serbian star Novak Djokovic, one week his junior, had roared past him. Djokovic entered elite company by kicking off 2011 with a dominating Australian Open victory over Murray. It seemed the torment would never end.
Was he the next Michael Chang: a good, solid champion who would take beatings from greater champions with bigger weapons?
The turning point may have been Murray's decision to hire Ivan Lendl as his coach. More toughness and risk was needed to combat his rivals. The alliance almost paid immediate dividends, as Murray pushed Djokovic to five sets in a classic Australian Open street fight. This was when his belief and toughness truly began.
Wimbledon 2012: "I'm Getting Closer"
Murray had a versatile game on grass with his slice forehand, improved serve and quick reflexes on returns. He had been a semifinalist three straight years, but now had marched on to the finals against an aging Federer.
Murray seized the first set and had Centre Court rocking like a Rolling Stones concert. He had more enhanced firepower on his forehand and the ability to win his first Grand Slam title.
But then the rains came, the roof was closed over Centre Court and Murray could not keep up with his longtime superior. The air and the life was sucked out of the stadium, and soon he was holding the second-place trophy once again.
He choked back tears in his post-match speech as he thanked the crowd. "All right, this is not gonna be easy," he said, unable to continue a speech.
He told Sue Barker of the BBC, as written by Sports Illustrated writer Bruce Jenkins, "I'm getting closer."
Olympics 2012: The Golden Breakthrough
It was quick redemption for Murray to get another crack at Federer at the London Olympics on Centre Court Wimbledon. The stakes were high with the men's singles gold medal on the line, and this time, it was Murray who delivered his greatest victory in a straight-sets thrashing of Federer.
It was more than a victory for Wimbledon. Murray had overcome the Federer obstacle and inched one step closer to fulfilling his promise as a Grand Slam champion. He was now a seasoned 25 years old and hitting his prime.
U.S. Open 2012: Finally a Grand Slam title
Murray would not be denied at the U.S. Open. First he had to endure gusty winds in a bizarre first set of the finals. Most of all, though, he had to endure Novak Djokovic's furious comeback.
Up two sets, Murray watched the next two sets evaporate as his Serbian rival produced blasts of power that defied even the elements. Murray's resolve was tested most, as he had to start anew in the fifth set with his momentum washed away and the agony of choking away his opportunity.
Murray passed his test with flying colors. He endured physical weariness and overcame another great champion. He finally won a Grand Slam title for Great Britain, the first man to do so since Fred Perry in 1936. The parade through New York never felt so good.
This burden had been lifted.
Murray said in his post-match interview (video inset), "I was very relieved...it means the world to me, what I've been working for definitely the last 10 years."
Australia 2013: Back to the Drawing Board
The second Grand Slam was not going to come easy. Murray lost a third consecutive match to Djokovic and had been overpowered at the baseline. The Serbian came into net for several winners and did not allow Murray a single break of serve as he captured his fourth Australian Open title.
For Murray, it signaled how far away the Wimbledon dream was. He was staring at another call to work harder and enhance his creativity. Many other players would have been satisfied, but not Murray.
Wimbledon 2013: Quarterfinal Scare and Comeback
After cruising through four easy matches, Murray suddenly found himself down two sets to veteran Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard had attacked with big forehands, tough spin and experience.
Murray chipped away slowly, scowling but patient, locked into each point and showing his champion's mettle and poise. His rally was a triumphant success for his composure.
The comeback toughened him on his journey to the Wimbledon title.
Wimbledon 2013: Great Britain Has its Wimbledon Title and Great Hero
It was the finest performance of Murray's career given his play and the stakes of being the first British man in 77 years to win Wimbledon. He also had to slay Djokovic once more.
The Scot set the tone early with several break-point opportunities and then began to cash them in. There was visible relief in watching him capture the first set, but determination in fighting back from a 4-1 deficit in the second.
Then he rode his talent to the finish line, out-hitting Djokovic and riding streaks of brilliant tennis. Though Djokovic was subpar, Murray took advantage and closed him out. His line read 6-4, 7-5, 6-4—the kind of beating he used to receive in Grand Slam finals.
"This is a great moment for Great Britain and for our sport. This guy deserves it" John McEnroe on ESPN on Andy Murray #Wimbledon victory— Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher) July 7, 2013
The accolades poured in, and Great Britain will toast its native Wimbledon champion for years to come.