NOVAK Djokovic dreamed of winning it, Rafael Nadal saw it as his greatest challenge and for Roger Federer, winning it was the making of a legend. Winning Wimbledon, however, is just part of the job for Andy Murray.
It is not that the new champion does not rate Wimbledon, as he has come to love the place and regards it as his second home. It is just that winning tournaments is what he works for. It is what every moment of his working life is geared around and whether that tournament is at SW19, Flushing Meadows or Melbourne, he just wants to win.
Sure enough, Murray thinks that he will never top that moment on Centre Court when Djokovic dumped a backhand into the net and ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a home-grown male Wimbledon winner. In a split second, a career’s worth of pressure was erased. Murray was a free man and never again would he have to play at the All England Club with the hopes of a whole nation clinging on to his racket arm.
But last weekend, he says, was only the beginning.
“I just want to try to win the next one,” Murray said. “I hope that’s how it is for the rest of my career. I don’t see a point in setting [a] number. I just want to try and win the next grand slam and prepare for each one like it’s my last.
“I’m competing with some of the best players ever. I’m just happy that I’ve been able to win some of these tournaments. I guess if I was to win one or two more, I would start to get up there [in the records], but I’m not thinking about that so much just now. I’m just going to get ready for the next one and if I can win one more then I’d be happy.”
Murray has never been flash; he does not revel in fame and fortune, nor is he known for blowing his own trumpet. Even though he has made what many thought was the impossible dream come true, the world No.2 is not about to start lording it over his rivals. He has full respect for his fellow grand-slam champions and just because he and Djokovic have played in three of the last four major finals, it does not mean that Nadal, pictured right, and Federer can be ignored.
“Rafa came back and made nine finals in a row,” Murray warned. “He won the French Open and he wasn’t 100 per cent fit when he was playing at Wimbledon. He’s 27 and if he stays healthy, then he’s going to be at the top of the game for a long time. He has a great record against everyone at the top of the game.
“I think Roger will stay be there or thereabouts in all of the slams, maybe just not as consistently as he was in the past because it’s impossible to keep that up. He did it for ten years, which is amazing.”
At the age of 26, Murray believes that only now is he in his prime. The game has changed dramatically since his first season on the tour and thanks to the homogenising of the courts surfaces and the developments in racket and string technology, tennis has become as much a test of physical endurance as one of touch and technique. The days of teenage prodigies have long gone and now top-level tennis is a game for men. Murray, in his mid-20s, is at his peak.
“I think that’s when you start peaking physically,” he said. “When I first came on the tour, I was weak. I had the game, but you can’t work so hard in a year that you just become massive and unbelievably fit. You’ll get injured if you work too hard too soon. So I knew that when I got into my mid-20s I’d be fitter and that’s helped. And it’s just maturing. I wasn’t that mature when I was 18, 19. I was still young and I was struggling to deal with some of the things that came with it. Now I’m dealing with it much better.”
The £1.6 million Murray pocketed for winning Wimbledon nudged his career prize money total towards the £19.75m mark, while his off-court earnings reportedly touch £5.25m a year. But now that he has won the SW19, those off-court earnings should go through the roof – no sponsor has had a British Wimbledon champion to plug their products before. Not that the Scot cares too much, calling his winner’s cheque a “ridiculous sum of money for winning a tennis tournament”. Winning last Sunday was never about the money. It was not even a childhood dream – it was simply the realisation of a professional goal.
“I think when I played here the first time, you kind of get a taste of it,” Murray said. “That was when I really wanted to win here. When you’re growing up, people say, yes, I wanted to win Wimbledon, but they don’t really understand what that means until you’re playing [here]. When I was around 18 or 19, I started to think more about it.
“When I started going over to train in Spain and becoming a professional tennis player, that’s when you have different goals. I didn’t think I was going to win a grand slam when I was training. I just wanted to get into top 100 – that was my first goal. And that’s kind of how my whole career has gone: top 100 was a goal, then top 50 and you just keep changing your goals if you achieve them and set them as high as possible.”
This weekend, Murray will be lying on a beach somewhere warm and sunny, most probably in the Caribbean. He has allowed himself a week off before he gets back to the practice courts to prepare for the American hard court season, but he will not rest for too long. “When you do just lie around, your body stiffens up when you do start practising again,” he said, “so I do try and do stuff when I’m on holiday.”
Murray has won Wimbledon, but there is still so much to do. This is his time and he has no plans to waste it.