WIMBLEDON, England — It’s axiomatic in football and baseball that defense wins. Pitching, of course, is a major part of defense. If the other team doesn’t score, it’s impossible to lose.
In the Wimbledon men’s final, Andy Murray demonstrated that the concept is no less applicable to tennis.
Whatever big-hitting Milos Raonic, the sport’s hardest server, powered at Murray on Sunday was handled by him with such brilliance that John McEnroe, one of Raonic’s coaches as well as an ESPN analyst, could only say, “It’s amazing how well this guy is returning. He’s phenomenal.”
By virtue of his 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) victory over Raonic, Murray also is the Wimbledon champion for the second time in four years, climaxing in sports and politics two of the wildest, most intense weeks ever in Great Britain.
First came Brexit, the country voting itself out of the European Union. Then came the loss to Iceland in the Euro Cup soccer competition. Now comes a victory by a 29-year-old Scot who had the fans at Centre Court chanting his name.
He did it in front of embattled Prime Minister David Cameron, who was booed. “I think playing in a Wimbledon final is tough,” Murray said, “but I certainly wouldn’t like to be Prime Minister.”
He did it in front of Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and former champs McEnroe, Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert and Stan Smith.
Murray wound up wiping tears from his face (along with sweat) after the final shot, a forehand that Raonic couldn’t retrieve.
“It’s been emotional,” Murray said. “Wimbledon is the most important tournament for me every year.”
This was different from 2013, when for the first time since 1936 a Brit won the tournament. “I’m going to enjoy this one a little more. I was nervous today,” Murray said, “with those legends watching, and the Prime Minister of the country as well. There is a lot of pressure on me to play well here.”
He handled that pressure the way he handled the serves of Raonic, the 25-year-old from greater Toronto who is the only Canadian male to play in the final of a Grand Slam event.
The 6-5 Raonic had 154 service aces during the previous six matches, including a surprising win over Roger Federer in the semifinals. But Raonic was limited to eight Sunday.
“He moves incredibly well,” Raonic said. “He returns well. Those are his two biggest strengths. I took care of my serve as much as I could. I needed to find a way to be more efficient returning [Federer had seven aces]. But every time you play him, you know he’s going to get more returns back than anybody else, alongside Novak.”
That would be No. 1 seed and top-ranked Novak Djo kovic, who earlier in the year beat Murray in the finals of the Australian and French. But Djokovic was knocked out in the third round this Wimbledon, opening the way for No. 2 Murray — who responded beautifully.
Djokovic may have won two of the majors this year, but Murray has been in the finals of all three. Next is the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows in August.
“There was so much pressure on myself, so much stress, for both the Wimbledon finals matches,” Murray said. “I was extremely emotional at the end of both matches.”
In 10 other Slams finals (he also won the 2012 U.S. Open), Murray had played Federer, Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. “I stuck to my game plan very well today,” he said. “I also served very well.”
Defense wins, with just enough offense.