Andy Murray finally found out on Sunday what it was like to play a Grand Slam final against someone other than Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.
Not surprisingly, it agreed with him as Murray defeated the big-serving Milos Raonic, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6, to win his second Wimbledon singles title.
Murray’s first victory here in 2013 is difficult to top. It made him the first British man in 77 years to win the singles title at the All England Club.
Sunday’s victory put an end to a much shorter drought for Murray, who had not won another major title since that breakthrough Wimbledon triumph three years ago.
Since then, he has gone through back surgery and two different coaches before reuniting with Ivan Lendl last month. Since 2013, Murray also has gotten married to his longtime girlfriend, Kim Sears, and become the father of a young daughter.
Along the way, he has remained a force at the highest level of the game, arriving here at No. 2 in the rankings behind Djokovic, who beat him in the first two major finals of the season at the Australian Open and the French Open.
For Murray, that meant a new-look final against Raonic, the first Canadian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final.
“There’s a lot of positive future in Canadian tennis,” Raonic said after his semifinal victory. “It’s great to sort of be at the center and front of that come Sunday. I’m glad that I’ve sort of been leading this charge, the first one to break through and really put all these things together. But I’m by no means done.”
Though he is done at Wimbledon for this year, he certainly has more upside here (and elsewhere) if he continues to search for every edge and to improve his attacking skills and physical agility.
But Murray, more experienced and very adept at absorbing the power and serves of men like Raonic, was too much to handle in the end. He has now beaten Raonic in their last six matches, four of which have come this season on three different surfaces.
This victory, which came with a home crowd cheering him on in Centre Court and nearby Henman Hill, gave Murray three Grand Slam singles titles. It also improved his record in major finals to 3-8, still the lowest winning percentage in the Open era for any man with that many appearances in finals.
But then Murray has had to make his way in a rugged era, one in which Federer has amassed a men’s record of 17 Grand Slam singles titles, Rafael Nadal has won 14 and Djokovic 12.
Murray, 29, is most unlikely to catch them, but he can certainly close the gap, and it will be intriguing to see what he can achieve going forward with Lendl back in his corner.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Murray said of his success at Wimbledon this year coming so soon after Lendl’s return.