In the 77 years since the last Brit won the men’s singles title at the All-England Club’s Wimbledon tournament, most every international player who accepted the trophy gave thanks and interviews in the king’s English.
From giving us the language of international discourse and commerce, to some of the world’s greatest literature, to the seeds of America’s judicial system and more, the British empire’s mark is still felt the world over.
It was felt on Sunday in ways unseen in decades when Scotland-born Andy Murray became the first Briton to win the grass-court championship since Fred Perry in 1936.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic fell to Murray uncharacteristically in three straight sets. He was essentially facing the headwinds of an entire nation, hungry for its first champion in nearly eight decades. But Murray was carrying his nation and its hopes on his shoulders.
The crowds cheered Murray on with every point, every dramatic stroke. Imagine the pressure on him, as he neared victory with three championship points in the final game, up 40-love. Imagine the self-doubt that might have crept in when Djokovic bounced back to fight off those match points and to give himself three chances to win the game. It would’ve been an unthinkable collapse.
Instead, Murray prevailed and an entire nation took him in its arms.
He made Britain feel Great again.
It was particularly sweet for Murray and his countrymen after his near-win a year before.
In retrospect, it’s as if fate used last year’s devastating defeat to push Murray on, not push him back.
There’s a lesson in that for all of us. We can look at adversity as nothing more than a setback. Or we can see it as a challenge, a chance to grow stronger. We can see it as preparation – perhaps for greatness, if we do it right.
How many athletes and sports teams come up short, maybe for years, before breaking through to the top? We can all learn from them.
It was, notably, one of England’s greatest men who said, “never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty ...”
Great Britain had to wonder if it would ever have its own Wimbledon champion again. Andy Murray had to wonder if last year was as close as he’d ever get.
The 77-year wonder is over.