Andy Murray's semi-final Australian Open loss to Novak Djokovic in January was not the customary failure British tennis is usually associated with. It has retrospectively had, as some suspected at the time, the reverse effect. Djokovic's 6-3 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-5 defeat of Murray in four hours 50 minutes was the harbinger for a glorious year that while bearing one painful and tearful low, was overawed by two glorious months in succession.
Skipping past his French Open quarter-final defeat to David Ferrer on 6 June, the following month Murray became the first Briton to reach the men's singles final at Wimbledon since Bunny Austin in 1938. He was also bidding to become the first British winner of the Championships since Fred Perry beat Gottfried von Cramm in 1936. Fifteen prime ministers had occupied office at 10 Downing Street in the 76 years that had elapsed and the fascination at Murray's milestone was endemic nationwide. Accustomed to Tim Henman punching above his weight only to disappoint at the final four stage four times, the frustration was equalled by expectation because Murray warranted the hype. It was his fourth Grand Slam final.
Final frustration at Wimbledon
But the romanticists were to be left disappointed by the immaculate Roger Federer, who won in four (that number again) sets after Murray's tour de force opener. The Centre Court had never been so subdued when a winning point had been confirmed and Murray, who turned 25 in May, cried as he struggled to address the his fans. Some cried with him.
Four weeks on at the same venue, tears of joy replaced tears of sadness. Murray overwhelmed Federer in straight sets in the London 2012 Olympics men's final. He even sang a few lines of God Save the Queen with a wry smile. Although it wasn't redemption, it exorcised the ghosts of that rain-drenched July day as the August sun shone on the Dunblane hero to illuminate him like an angel.
Grand Slam status would have to wait until September and the US Open final, four years on from when he was helpless against the Federer juggernaut in his first major final at Flushing Meadows. It ended where it had started; against Djokovic in another five set marathon as day gave way to night and Brits stayed up until the wee hours of 11 September. Murray emulated Perry's 1936 New York achievement, winning 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 in four hours 54 minutes in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, just four minutes more than his Australian Open loss in the first month of 2012. It's only a matter of time until he gets his own clothes label.
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