Philadelphia, PA – It seemed only fitting that one of the wackiest Wimbledons in recent memory, probably ever, came to an end with the first men's British singles champion at the All England Club in 77 years.
That's how long it took between Fred Perry, in 1936, and Andy Murray to bookend such championships at tennis' most prestigious event.
Murray got his chance to end a 76-year drought last year when he became the first British male Wimbledon finalist in 74 years, or since Bunny Austin lost to American legend Don Budge in 1938. But he wound up losing a tough four- setter to seven-time champion Roger Federer on the famed Centre Court.
However, Murray would start laying the groundwork for his first Wimbledon championship by upsetting Federer about a month later at the All England Club, where the tennis portion of the 2012 Summer Olympics was held and the Brit straight-setted the Swiss legend in a marquee gold-medal match.
A couple months later, Murray became the first British male Grand Slam singles champion anywhere since Perry in '36 when he toppled then-reigning champ Novak Djokovic in the finale at the U.S. Open.
Djokovic would return the favor by besting Murray in this year's Australian Open final, but Murray would get even in a big way at the latest Wimby fortnight.
Many folks got the final they wanted this week when the world No. 1 Djokovic and the home hero Murray landed in the 2013 Wimbledon title tilt ... and this time Murray would not disappoint.
The 26-year-old Scot from Dunblane played near-flawless tennis in taking down his long-time tennis rival and good friend Djokovic on the second Sunday of the fortnight, as Murray prevailed on a hot, sun-spanked afternoon in the village of Wimbledon via straight sets to kickoff a wonderful civic celebration throughout Great Britain, from London to Edinburgh and everywhere in between.
"Winning Wimbledon, yeah, I still can't believe it," a stunned Murray said. "Can't get my head around that. I can't believe it."
True, Murray is not an Englishman, but that doesn't matter right now to the former Wimbledon-title-starved Brits. The last time one of their own ran the table at SW19 came on the women's side in the form of Virginia Wade back in 1977. So the British women's drought at the All England Club is now into its 37th year ... but that's another story.
If you count the Olympics, Murray has now won three of the last five monster events on the circuit.
Sounds like a No. 1 to me.
He may also be looking at knighthood. Seriously.
Note: Murray is a perfect 12-0 on grass this year, having also titled at The Queen's Club in London just a few weeks ago.
For now, it's safe to say that Murray won't have to buy his own beer in Britain any time soon.
Djokovic, by the way, did not look to be himself in the championship match, perhaps a bit fatigued after outlasting towering Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the longest-ever semifinal match at Wimbledon just two days earlier. The six-time major titlist needed a brutal 4 hours, 43 minutes to stave off the former U.S. Open titlist del Potro on Centre Court, and then carded 40 unforced errors against Murray on Day 13.
And for anyone who's interested, the women's Wimbledon title this year was claimed by France's Marion Bartoli, who played in her second Wimby final in seven years and made this one count by handling big-serving German Sabine Lisicki in straights. Bartoli took the checkered flag as a 15th seed, becoming the lowest-seeded Wimbledon champ since Venus Williams topped a then 18th- seeded Bartoli as a 23rd seed in the '07 women's finale.
The 28-year-old Bartoli also became the first French Wimbledon champ since former world No. 1 star Amelie Mauresmo turned the trick back in 2006.
The first week of the fortnight was just pure insanity, as the men's draw lost Federer, Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while the women's draw took big hits with stunning exits by an injured Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.
The first Wednesday of the fortnight was perhaps the weirdest day in the history of the sport, as the former world No. 1 Federer, the former top-ranked ladies Azarenka and Sharapova, Tsonga, and three other former No. 1 women all were sent packing, much to the chagrin of Week-2 ticket holders. No less than six players pulled out of their respective draws due to injuries that fateful day.
The two-time Wimbledon champion and reigning French Open king Nadal was shocked by outside-the-top-100 Belgian Steve Darcis on opening day last week, while the great Federer was stunned in the second round by another not-top-100 guy in Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, halting Federer's remarkable record of reaching 36 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals.
When Nadal lost, it marked his second straight shocking Wimbledon exit, as Czech Lukas Rosol played the role of giant-killer, in the second round, a year ago.
Azarenka pulled out of her second-round match due to a knee injury, while the former Wimbledon champ and former runner-up Sharapova was shocked by Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito in straight sets, also in the second round.
What was going on there? It must have been something in the strawberries and cream.
But perhaps the most rattling upset of them all came on the second Monday, the so-called "Manic Monday," when Lisicki toppled Serena Williams in the round of 16. The 23rd-seeded German pulled off the stunner in three sets, as Williams lost her career-best, seemingly unstoppable 34-match winning streak in the process.
The 16-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena headed to Wimby as the heavy women's favorite. She was the reigning champ, and also holds the French and U.S. Open crowns as well as the Olympic title, which she earned at the All England Club less than a year earlier by blitzing her fellow career Grand Slam queen Sharapova in a lopsided gold-medal match.
And Serena had won eight of the last 16 majors she'd entered.
In summary, one of the "Big Three" (Serena, Azarenka and Sharapova) failed to produce this time around, while a member of the "Big Four" (Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal), of course, claimed the latest major title, which one of them has now done at the last 15 Slams in succession.
This year's Wimbledon singles champs each pocketed $2.4 million, while the runners-up settled for $1.2 million apiece.