Watching our representative in sport’s defeat is an all-too familiar experience for the British audience. However, when faced with this moment in yesterday’s Wimbledon final, following all-time greatest Roger Federer’s inevitable victory over Scotland’s Andy Murray, even the most bitter of sports fans could not deny the incredibly uplifting and poignant scene. Murray tearfully congratulated Federer and thanked his fans for their support, and his difficulty in getting his words out through the emotion was heart-wrenching to watch. But in a stunning act of British strength and dignity, the Wimbledon audience simply cheered him on louder and louder, whilst Federer stood at the sidelines with his trophy once again. The camera cut to several faces from Murray’s girlfriend, his mother, to Kate Middleton welling up and, perhaps most touchingly, Federer beaming at Murray, silently congratulating him for his efforts. The audience, despite disappointment after being in sight of the first British Wimbledon victory since 1938, could feel nothing but love for Murray and accepted him as a hero.
This was a beautiful moment in tennis, and, for me, up there with the almighty Federer-Nadal final. There was an acceptance that Federer is unequivocally the greatest tennis player of all time, and watching that realisation on his face as he won that fourth set against Murray was undeniably heart-warming too. Tennis, being an individual sport, is about individual journeys and struggles, and television sells it in a way which touches the hearts of the audience just as much as watching a fictional film does. Nevertheless, that reaction to the runner-up’s interview quickly following the match was something television could not manipulate; it was the moment of recognition, after Murray’s defeat as we saw the tears escaping from his eyes, that this man had not gone down easily; he is the first British man to reach a Wimbledon final in 74 years and for about a set and a half he made one of the greatest athletes in the world struggle. We reproached ourselves for being so hard on him in the previous few years of Wimbledon , and even this year for criticising his supposed coldness. It was also an acknowledgment of his achievement and prospects for the future; why should this be his “best chance” at winning Wimbledon? Federer at the age of 30 has now won seven grand slam finals. I believe Murray still has some exciting years of tennis ahead of him.