By HOWARD FENDRICH, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — The roars grew longer, the applause louder, with each game and each point that carried Andy Murray closer to ending Britain's 77-year wait for a men's champion at Wimbledon.
Then, with Murray suddenly needing merely one point to end his grueling final against Novak Djokovic, the 15,000 spectators filling Centre Court at the All England Club hushed long enough for play to resume. Murray lost that point. As well as his second championship point. And, yes, his third, too.
Grand Slam success did not come quickly or easily for Murray earlier in his career, and it certainly did not come recently for the British at their revered grass-court tournament, so there was something fitting about the way the last game dragged on, the tension growing, the long wait a little longer still.
When a fourth championship point eventually arrived, nearly 10 minutes after the first, the normally relentless Djokovic finally yielded, pushing a backhand into the net to cap Murray's 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory Sunday.
The match was over. The angst was gone. Murray — and all of Britain — could celebrate.
"That last game will be the toughest game I'll play in my career. Ever," said Murray, who is Scottish. "Winning Wimbledon — I still can't believe it. Can't get my head around that. I can't believe it."
Until Sunday, no British man had won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
"I obviously wanted to try and win this for myself," Murray told the crowd, cradling his new gold trophy, "but also I understand how much everyone else wanted to see a British winner at Wimbledon, so I hope you guys enjoyed it."
The ceremony's emcee described the closing game as "tortuous to watch," and Murray, with perfect comedic timing, piped up, "Imagine playing it."
When the 210th, and last, point went Murray's way, the ball landing on Djokovic's side of the court, the new champion dropped his neon-red racket, yanked his white hat off and pumped both fists overhead, screaming, "Yes! Yes!" He kicked a ball into the stands. He fell to his knees, then covered his eyes with his hands, before walking over to high-five some fans. An earsplitting ovation rang out in the arena, soon giving rise to chats of "Andy! Andy! Andy!"
Across the grounds, thousands responded with cheers while watching on a giant videoboard at the picnic lawn known as Murray Mount. And, surely, millions more following along on TV across Britain stood up from their sofas. British Prime Minister David Cameron was in the Royal Box, a sign of the day's significance, and Buckingham Palace confirmed that Queen Elizabeth II sent Murray a private message afterward.
"The end of the match, that was incredibly loud, very noisy," Murray said. "It does make a difference. It really helps when the crowd's like that, the atmosphere is like that. Especially in a match as tough as that one, where it's extremely hot, brutal, long rallies, tough games — they help you get through it."
He climbed up to the guest box for hugs with several people, including his girlfriend and his coach, Ivan Lendl, an eight-time major champion as a player who never fared better than runner-up at Wimbledon. Murray then started to head back down to the court when he realized he'd forgotten to find his mother, British Fed Cup captain Judy Murray, and went back to hug her, too.
Speaking about Lendl, Murray said: "Ideally he would have won it himself, but I think this was the next best thing for him. ... He believed in me when a lot of people didn't. ... He's been very patient with me. I'm just happy I managed to do it for him."
Only two men in tennis history lost their first four Grand Slam finals: Lendl and Murray. A defeat against Roger Federer in last year's Wimbledon title match dropped Murray to 0-4.
That day, Murray's voice cracked and tears rolled as he told the crowd, "I'm getting closer."
How prescient. Four weeks later, on the same court, he beat Federer for a gold medal at the London Olympics, a transformative victory if ever there was one. And 52 weeks later, on the same court, he beat Djokovic for the Wimbledon championship.