Fine serve, return at the net, first volley winner. And then the packed Centre Court of the All-England Club erupted in ecstasy and elation. One of the long-awaited Grand Slam British triumphs had come after a wait of 76 years.
No, this is not about Andy Murray. This was in celebration of Liverpool native Jonathan Marray winning the men’s doubles championship. Along with Danish partner Frederik Nielsen, Marray defeated fifth seeds Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau 4-6 6-4 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 6-3, in 3:20.
Taking the hard road to a fairy tale ending
The story of Marray and Nielsen has everything of those fairy tales that we so like seeing in sports. They got in with a wild card, as Marray didn’t have sufficient ranking to gain direct entry to the main draw with the one he originally planned to play with, Canadian Adil Shamasdin. Playing their very first Tour event together as a team (they had played the Nottingham Challenger together a few weeks back, where they reached the finals), they made their way through the draw, and not very easily.
They first defeated no 9 seeds Marcel Granollers and Marc López, in five sets, then earned their only straight-set win of the tournament against Ivo Karlovic and Frank Moser. Their round-of-16 (against no 8 seeds Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer) and quarter-finals (against James Cerretani and Édouard Roger-Vasselin) matches were also five-setters. In semi-finals, they took out the champions of the last two years, World no 2 Bob and Mike Bryan, also in four sets.
The finals was just the continuation of the hard road the Brit and the Dane had taken in order to make their dream come true. It took one bad service game from Freddie Nielsen to grant three-time finalists (2010,11,12) Lindstedt and Tecau the break, a break they did not relinquish to take the opening set 6-4.
The second set was just as tight and even, Marray and Nielsen breaking Lindstedt’s serve as he was serving to keep his team in it. Both teams split tiebreaks in the third and fourth sets, not without Marray and Nielsen coming within two points of victory in the fourth.
In the deciding fifth, they broke at their first return game and never let go, sealing their first Grand Slam as a team and as individual players, crowning a week worthy of the most beautiful Hollywood scripts amongst the joyful cheers of a home crowd that had been waiting since 1936 (Pat Hughes/Raymond Tuckey) to see a Brit take the men’s doubles crown at Wimbledon. (The last man from Great Britain to win a Grand Slam title was Jamie Murray, who won the Wimbledon mixed doubles event with Serbian Jelena Jankovic in 2007.)
As for Frederik Nielsen, he became the first Danish man to win a Grand Slam title, after two failed attempts in 1953 and 1955 by his own grandfather, Kurt Nielsen, both times runner-up in the Wimbledon’s singles. His grandfather was, until this day, the sole male Grand Slam winner of Denmark, having won the mixed doubles at the 1957 U.S. Open (with Althea Gibson).
Classy, funny, talented, this team brought a smile on most faces with their win for all the right reasons. Congratulations to them and may we see them win some more titles together in the near future!
Two side notes
Despite the joy of seeing Marray and Nielsen win, we cannot help feeling for Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau, who were playing their third consecutive Wimbledon final, each time ending up with the plate and not the trophy. They are a very good team and we can only wish them to end up with one of those big trophies some day.
Also, we cannot keep silent on the sportsmanship displayed by Jonathan Marray in the third set tiebreak. After a winning volley that could have given a 5-0 lead to his team, Marray’s racquet lightly touched the top of the net, which escaped the chair umpire, Eva Asderaki. Honest and gentleman, Marray signaled it to her right away, thus conceding the point to his team’s rivals, rightfully so. A gesture that showed great sportsmansip and honesty.