No ‘Brexit’ for Andy Murray, who wins second Wimbledon title in 4 years

Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts during his match against Milos Raonic of Canada in the men's final of the Wimbledon Championships on Sunday.
(Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

While his devoted fans covered every inch of Wimbledon’s grass slope that bears his name, Andy Murray reached the tennis mountaintop Sunday by winning the storied tournament for the second time in four years.

Murray, a Scotland native embraced by all of Great Britain, used an impenetrable defense — with a strategic peppering of offense — to turn back upstart Canadian Milos Raonic in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2)

Whereas Raonic was making his debut in a Grand Slam final, Murray was playing in his 11th and matched his feat in 2013 of winning a Wimbledon singles title, the first British man to do so in 77 years. In those previous 10 finals, however, Murray played either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.

“I’m just really proud that I managed to do it again after a lot of tough losses in the latter stages of the Slams over the last couple of years,” said Murray, who receives the equivalent of $2.59 million in prize money. “I’m also aware of how difficult these competitions are to win once. To do it twice here, an event where there’s a lot of pressure on me to perform well, I’m very proud with how I’ve handled that.”

Milos Raonic returns to Andy Murray during their men's singles final match at Wimbledon on July 10.
Milos Raonic returns to Andy Murray during their men’s singles final match at Wimbledon on July 10.
(Glyn Kirk / Getty Images )

When the match ended, after he leaped around and pumped his fist, Murray walked to his courtside chair, sat down, and sobbed into his towel. All of life’s ups and downs in recent years — his back surgery, getting married, the birth of his daughter, the expectations of winning the marquee event in his backyard — seemed to well up and overflow in that very moment.

“I feel more content this time,” he said. “I feel like this was sort of more for myself than anything, and my team as well…. Last time it was just pure relief, and I didn’t really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I’m going to make sure I enjoy this one more than the others.”

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Murray and Raonic represented a contrast in styles, with the 6-foot-5 Canadian leaning on his booming serve-and-volley game, and the 6-3 local hero spending much of his time at the baseline and getting almost everything back over the net, often placing the ball in unreachable spots with surgical accuracy.

In the previous six rounds, Raonic averaged 25.7 aces per match. He had just eight against Murray, and didn’t get his first until Murray was a game away from winning the opening set. It wasn’t that Raonic was serving poorly. It’s just that getting a ball past Murray is harder than getting a seat in the royal box.

“He moves incredibly well,” Raonic said. “He returns well. Those are his two biggest strengths.… Every single time you play him, you know he’s going to get more returns back than anybody else along with Novak. That’s what these two guys especially do. You try to find a way around that.”

Murray said he practices returning serves for 30 minutes a day, without fail.

He said a lot of players “hit loads of tennis balls, and maybe at the end of practice they serve a little bit and return a little bit. Sometimes, those [return] shots get left out. But they’re the most important shots in the game, so I practice them a lot.”

There’s little doubt that Murray is currently Britain’s most popular sports icon. On the grounds outside the Center Court venue, the air was filled with the robust cheers of the fans populating every inch of “Murray Mound” and watching on a cinema-sized video board. Inside, there was enthusiastic applause and the occasional rebellious shout of “Go, Andy!” from spectators who couldn’t resist shattering the rules of decorum.

Murray stirs enormous pride in a U.K. going through a tumultuous Brexit transition. In his on-court interview, he acknowledged outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron being in attendance. That elicited some boos from the crowd, and Murray defended him with, “I think playing in a Wimbledon final is tough, but I certainly wouldn’t like to be a prime minister. It’s an impossible job.”

The truly impossible job Sunday belonged to Raonic, the first Canadian man to reach a Grand Slam final, and the first non-European to get this far at Wimbledon since Andy Roddick in 2009. Raonic faced the tournament’s two most popular players in consecutive rounds — Federer and Murray — and had no chance to win over the crowd in either match.

“My job there is to focus on myself, focus on Andy,” Raonic said. “Everything outside of the lines, try to make it as unnoticeable to myself as possible.”

Raonic said he wasn’t especially nervous for what was the biggest match of his career, but he made his share of mistakes. He had 29 unforced errors to Murray’s 12.

During some breaks in the action, Murray would pick up the journal at his chair and thumb through the strategy notes he made before the match.

“They’re personal notes that I keep for myself,” he said. “They’re quite basic, fairly mundane. Would be like, `Make sure you’re moving your feet when you’re nervous.’ People have a tendency when they’re nervous to not move, not use their legs. It’s just stuff like that. Nothing too special.”

Not too special from Murray’s perspective, maybe. But for his legions of fans, those personal tidbits and insights are as golden as the trophy he hoists overhead.

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesFarmer