June 28, 2021
Andy Murray walked onto Centre Court to rapturous applause and left emotionally exhausted by the sheer drama of his victory.
He said: ‘It’s amazing to be back out on Centre Court with such a brilliant atmosphere. That was not easy mentally.’
This should have been a simple win, given how well he played for most of the match.
Devastating drop-shots and stretching serves. The pain seemed to have given way to the sharpness of the brain.
Adrenalin, the cheering crowd and a sheer love for tennis almost did the rest.
Then a few moments of doubt derailed him and gave the match an unlikely twist.
Andy always was capable of showing extraordinary vulnerability, even just before great moments of triumph.
Remember those nerve-jangling minutes prior to his first Wimbledon title win over Djokovic?
The stakes weren’t quite so high on the same stage this time around. But it must have meant everything to Andy to win one more time.
Vintage Murray on Wimbledon’s first day. Could we have asked for any more?
It was a sight many doubted we would ever see again. How lucky we are!
These are the moments for which Murray has trained so hard and why he so stubbornly refused to retire.
History and worldwide affection demanded this display from the two-time Wimbledon champion on a Centre Court first bathed in sunlight and then requiring the roof.
The crowd couldn’t have been noisier or more enthusiastic. Indeed the great Boris Becker said he had never heard Centre Court so loud.
Anyone who thought Wimbledon 2021 would lack atmosphere should think again and buy their ticket before it’s too late.
We told you Wimbledon 2021 would be the most emotional Wimbledon of them all. And it already is!
From the moment spectators stood to applaud vaccine heroine Dame Sarah Gilbert and astounded her with their warmth and generosity, we knew the mood was going to be special.
Then a 19-year-old Brit took a set off the great Novak Djokovic and gave the audience plenty more to cheer.
Jack Draper was courageous and confident as he revelled in his glamorous new surroundings. We’ll see him go deeper in years to come.
Djokovic just smiled at the onslaught and applauded his opponent. But then he went to work and won in four.
Novak chose that victorious moment to come up with some beautiful words about Centre Court.
‘Probably the most special, most sacred tennis court in the world,’ he said. ‘You feel the history. You feel the tradition.’
And of course Djokovic is right. But you have to be there to really feel it.
It was the only possible stage for Andy Murray’s contest against Qatar champion Nikoloz Basilashvili.
The brave Scot hadn’t graced the hallowed grass for four years. In the first set it was already like he had never been away.
Andy drew the big-hitting Georgian in towards the net, where he is clearly less comfortable.
Murray dictated the cat-and-mouse games and neutralised Basilashvilli’s power to take the first 6-4.
He broke after an epic hold in the second set and the roar could probably be heard in central London.
You can imagine what it was like as Murray closed out the set 6-3 with another deft drop-shot. Pure pandemonium.
For a while the third set was a procession of pure joy and a celebration of all things Murray as he romped into a 5-0 lead.
Then the nerves set in as he saw the finishing line. Broken four times in succession, we all felt anxiety on his behalf.
The recent memory of two match points at 5-3 didn’t leave his supporters feeling any more relaxed as he lost the third set 5-7.
A welcome pause – for Murray at least – was necessary for the closure of the roof.
Murray played a more patient game when the gladiators returned. Basilashvili lost momentum and began to crumble again.
Could Andy finally succeed? Another match point went begging. But the fourth brought ecstasy.
The occasion deserved no less and he clinched it 6-3 in the fourth with a huge roar.
What scenes at the end! You would have thought the British favourite had won Wimbledon a third time!
In truth it was a remarkable achievement just to be able to entertain like this.
How we had missed Murray at The Championships! And whatever happens to Andy from here, no one can ever take this glorious return away from him.
Meanwhile there was a shock on No1 Court when the popular American Frances Tiafoe stunned Greek superstar Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets.
Back on Centre Court few predicted Sloane Stephens would beat Petra Kvitova but she did – emphatically too.
But then you always get a shock or two in the first round of such a dramatic tournament.
We will hope there are no big shocks on Centre Court on Day 2, though.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams will grace the same stage on Tuesday.
Now who would want to miss that?
We want to savour every day they remain in contention. Remember, this could be their last time too.