He did not put a foot wrong. From first ball to trophy presentation, Andy Murray was pitch perfect in every aspect as he strode towards his second Wimbledon title.
From game plan to execution, from technical precision to physical strength, from total focus to mental fortitude, Murray was flawless as he dismantled Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6, 7-6.
The huge Canadian serving giant was limited to just eight aces and more than 15 stones of sheer muscle simply could not find a way to hurt the Scot. He could barely bruise him as Murray outplayed Raonic over two hours and 48 minutes.
When it was over, Murray was in tears – he could not hold them back, try as he might. This was his 11th grand slam final and he had endured eight final losses in the past, two of them this year. Now, finally, he did not see either Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer on the other side of the net, the men who had reduced him to tears of disappointment so many times, so now the tears flowed in sheer relief: after three years of frustration and heartache, he was a major champion again.
Djokovic, pictured, is still the world No 1 by a staggering 5,000 ranking points but since the start of the Monte Carlo tournament, the traditional opener to the clay court season, Murray has been the dominant force on tour.
Since the beginning of April, Djokovic has won 18 matches and lost three, winning one grand slam title and one Masters Series title; Murray has won 30 matches and lost three, winning one grand slam title and one Master Series title.
But the title that mattered most was Wimbledon and, as he faced Raonic, he had a clear plan. The Scot’s return game is his deadliest weapon and no matter what his rival tried to do with his serve, Murray read it and neutralised it.
For a set, Raonic seemed weighed down by nerves in his first grand slam final. The serve that had pulverised Roger Federer in the previous round was a good ten or 15 mph slower than on Friday but, as the match wore on, he warmed to his task and his serving arm loosened up. Not that it mattered. He banged down the second fastest delivery in Wimbledon history in the second set – a 147mph thumper – and Murray sent it back.
The key was that second set – Murray was outplaying Raonic but he could not convert any of his four break-point chances. This could have been a dire and costly mistake but not for Murray. Taking control of the tiebreak from the first point (a Raonic brain-freeze that resulted in him dumping a backhand into the net), Murray bullied the big man into submission, turning defence into attack, serving with precision and moving his game up another gear.
Now two sets to the good, Murray was in charge but Raonic and his serve would not go away. His coaches have been encouraging the world No 7 to come to the net behind that thundering opening shot and, for the past two weeks, Raonic has been racing forward at every opportunity. For a set, he volleyed well but, under the constant pressure of Murray’s passing shots, he finally crumbled.
Murray’s backhand was tearing Raonic to shreds, while his one-two punch with passing shots was leaving the Canadian in the wrong place at the wrong time. Murray did it time and again: the first pass would dip low, forcing Raonic to lunge and scramble to get the ball back and then, with the court open, Murray would fire the second pass into the space he had just created.
Come the second tiebreak, Murray was in complete command. A 5-0 lead soon turned into five championships points and Murray nailed the second of those.
This time, he did not drop the lid of the cup as he had in 2013. Yesterday, he was flawless in every department.