LONDON — First came the victory in the Tour de France. Then there were the stacks of medals at a dazzling Olympics at home.
If that weren’t enough to lift the country’s spirits, the United Kingdom basked in another milestone Monday to cap this magical sports summer.
Yes, at long last, after 76 years of wait and frustration, Great Britain has a men’s Grand Slam tennis champion.
Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic in five sets in the U.S. Open final, giving Britain yet one more reason to wave the flag again. The feel-good glow began with national celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s “Diamond Jubilee” of 60 years on the throne and peaked during the last six weeks of Olympic and Paralympic fervor.
Murray’s victory – completed while most of Britain was asleep – came just hours after more than 1 million people lined the streets of London to cheer the nation’s Olympians and Paralympians in a two-hour parade marking the end of the 2012 Games.
“The forecast … was made yesterday that the great summer of British sport was over, but he’s given us another immense prize to wake up to,” Prime Minister David Cameron said.
After losing in four previous Grand Slam finals, Murray outlasted defending champion Djokovic 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 after nearly five hours on Monday to become the first British man to win a Slam since Fred Perry captured the Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships in 1936.
Finally, the “Fred Perry curse” has been broken – although until Murray wins Wimbledon, it won’t be fully put to rest.
“Thank God that’s over. Thank God we can let Fred Perry lie easy. Thank God for Andy Murray,” wrote the Guardian newspaper Web site.
Like Tim Henman before him, Murray had been dogged by the weight of expectations of the British public and media and the never-ending questions over when the Grand Slam drought would finally be broken.
“Now they won’t ask me that stupid question any more” read the back page headline Tuesday in London’s Evening Standard.
The victory came on the exact day – Sept. 10 – that Perry won the U.S. title in 1936. It also came in Murray’s fifth Grand Slam final, following in the footsteps of his no-nonsense coach, Ivan Lendl, who lost in his first four Grand Slam finals before going on to win eight major titles.
For years, Murray has been considered just a rung below the “Big Three” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, who had shared 29 of the previous 30 major titles. Now he’s joined the club and Britain is rejoicing.
“Now Olympic and U.S. Open champion, Andy truly is a Scottish sporting legend and I’m certain that more Grand Slam titles will follow,” Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said.