Wiedmer: Murray is now able to challenge for No. 1

Wiedmer: Murray is now able to challenge for No. 1

July 8th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Andy Murray of Britain reacts after winning against Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the Men's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Sunday, July 7, 2013.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Listen to new Wimbledon champ Andy Murray long enough and you might start to wonder whether his historic Sunday triumph over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was won in the United Kingdom or the Magic Kingdom.

While anyone who watched it will swear the Great Scot earned Great Britain its first All-England Club men's single title since Fred Perry 77 years ago, all the while denying Djokovic his seventh major on the seventh day of the seventh month -- feel free to hum the Twilight Zone theme song at this moment -- even Murray seemed uncertain it actually occurred.

"I have no idea what happened," he replied after being asked to describe the finish.

He then explained to the BBC how he had dreamed of victory on Saturday night, "But I dreamed I was playing [fellow tour pros] Radek Stepanek or Lukasz Kubot instead of Novak."

This is the same Murray who told Wimbledon's assembled media before the world's most famous tennis tourney began that after last year's crushing loss to Roger Federer in the final, he later dreamed he'd actually won, only to wake up and realize he hadn't.

So maybe it isn't real, after all. Maybe we've all been placed under some crazy spell by a potion cooked up by Harry Potter, some desperate act to falsely make the British Empire believe the end of its famous fortnight was delightful rather than frightful.

Maybe we'll all wake up a week or two from now and realize that the weirdest, wackiest Wimbledon in history was all a figment of our imaginations.

That Rafael Nadal didn't really lose in the opening round to Steve Darcis, who then had to retire with a shoulder problem before his next match.

That Federer didn't bow out two days later to Sergiy Stakhovsky, who then fell meekly in the third round.

That Maria Sharapova didn't really also lose in the second round to Michelle Larcher de Brito, that defeat later blamed on the fact that she's apparently so in love with men's tour player Grigor Dimitrov she can no longer focus on her forehand.

That Serena Williams -- arguably the greatest closer in the history of the sport -- didn't blow a 4-2 lead in the third set against Sabine Lisiki, losing 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

But it all seems real today and if so, it might also signal a renaissance for men's tennis, where it could be argued that there has never been so much Hall of Fame talent at the top at the same time..

Just look at the field. Despite having his record streak of 36 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals come to an end, Federer still owns a record 17 singles titles in the majors. Nadal has 12, Djokovic six and Murray's won two of the last four, reaching the final of the last four majors he's played in, since he skipped last month's French Open with an injury.

Moreover, Murray seemed the more polished and poised player on Sunday, both his serve and legs faster than the Djokester.

Pointing to his "team," which features his mom, Judy, his coach Ivan Lendl and girlfriend Kim Sears -- and has anyone ever seen actress Alicia Silverstone and Sears in the same place at the same time? -- Murray said: "They've done a great job of patching over some mental scars."

He added, "I've learned from all of my defeats," as chants of "Andy, Andy, Andy" filled the sunny skies from his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland, to London, to every inch of Wimbledon's hallowed grounds, including Henman Hill, the grassy knoll where the ticketless watch on a giant video screen.

Named for former British star Tim Henman, it has been suggested by more than one journalist that the Hill be renamed Murray Mound.

Even Henman proclaimed on the BBC late Sunday, "Andy has inspired a generation."

This quartet of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray should be inspiring a global generation of young people to pick up a sport that's relatively cheap to play and can provide great exercise for life.

As Henman said of Murray's potential impact on the United Kingdom: "Adult participation numbers [in tennis] have been dropped and there have been rumors of funding being cut. How could they cut funding after what we witnessed today? I think the park courts will be full in the next couple of weeks."

Former United States greats Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe once made that dream come true in this country. City courts were often overflowing in the 1970s and early 1980s. Television ratings soared. Nike later swooshed in with clever ads featuring Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

No more. You seemingly have to subscribe to the Tennis Channel to watch any tourney outside the four majors, despite the current brilliance on display before our eyes almost weekly.

As ESPN wrapped up its Sunday coverage, Patrick McEnroe said of Murray's future: "The best is yet to come for him."

And quite possibly the sport in general, whether we ever watch it in great numbers again, or not.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.