IT ENDED with four Wimbledon champions doing battle, the Centre Court’s affections split as a Murray brother and an ageing Swiss with a glittering collection of Grand Slam victories did battle.
Unlike the epic encounters of 2012, however, this time both could be winners as Andy’s big brother Jamie and Roger Federer’s compatriot, Martina Hingis, emerged triumphant from their clash with a popular pair of defending champions in Englishwoman Heather Watson and her Finnish partner Henri Kontinen.
This was a fine way for the older Murray to mark the 10th anniversary of beating his sibling to becoming a Wimbledon champion as he took his turn to play catch up by winning a second title at the All England Club. It would be unfair to describe him as having under-valued the previous achievement, but he was evidently more aware of the importance of winning the mixed doubles title than he had been in 2007.
Without the slightest disrespect towards Jelena Jankovic, that was surely informed by his awareness of his partner’s achievements, a woman who was herself marking a special anniversary with a full 20 years having elapsed since she won the women’s singles title in a season in which, as a 17-year-old, she came within a single match – when losing the final of the French Open – of a calendar year Grand Slam and who boasted a total haul of 22 previous Grand Slam title wins.
Murray admitted to taking a very different view of the invitation to play with Hingis than he might have had it come from anyone else, such was his determination to give his full attention to the men’s doubles and his bid to win the title he most covets.
Yet the extension of that invitation is also a measure of his standing in the sport, so much so that Hingis admitted to some rare nerves in making the approach and to having braced herself for possible disappointment.
“I was hoping that Wimbledon really is for every British player or for any tennis player, you want to win Wimbledon. I don’t take ‘no’ as an answer pretty much, but I would understand especially here, it’s always tough,” she said, though.
“I understand in the past guys would have said no because they really want to focus on doubles only because they play three-out-of-five sets. This is the only tournament that still does it. It’s definitely easier to ask somebody on the other three Grand Slams and not Wimbledon, but I definitely was hoping for a big yes (then) he left me hanging overnight. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, did he read it? Did he not?’”
Murray explained that he had not been playing hard to get, but had not received the message until the following morning and he had not had to give much thought to the reply.
“The doubles for me is obviously my biggest goal of the year. It’s going to take something pretty special to kind of maybe potentially take my eye off the ball with it, but it was a great opportunity. I mean, she’s won everything, won so many mixed as well. For me, it was kind of an easy decision,” he admitted.
She has now won one more thing after what proved a relaxing end to the tournament for the Centre Court crowd since they would clearly have been just as pleased had Watson been successful.
What they witnessed in the opening set was something of a traditional mixed doubles battle as the men held their serves with little in the way of alarm and the women struggled, both being broken first time around. The decisive moment arrived when, after Watson was broken a second time, Hingis managed to hold her serve.
Watson did produce a couple of memorable moments in that first set, sending a perfectly located 94 mph ace past Murray, then almost drilling a hole through him with a blistering ground stroke, but on that second occasion it merely provided him with the chance to demonstrate his remarkable reflexes as, while appearing to take evasive action, he somehow got enough racquet on the ball for it to drop over the net and win the point.
Murray was the dominant figure on court, duly serving out the set and, albeit he faced challenges in the shape of a couple of break points against him during the second of his service games in the second set, when Watson was broken and Hingis then held to love to make it 5-3, it was all on his racquet once again.
Once more he was tested as they fell 15-40 behind and also when a third break point was conceded after they got back to deuce, while Watson was horrified when she missed an easy overhead that would have earned a fourth, her worst fears confirmed when he then fired down a 106 mph serve that she could not return and a decade on he expressed his greater appreciation of what it means.
“Obviously it took me a long time to get a second one, but I really enjoyed the whole week,” he said. “It’s a great achievement. Any time you win a Grand Slam, get your name up on the board again, it’s there forever, no-one will take it away from you.”