LONDON (Reuters) - Andy Murray is getting a taste for grand slam titles and believes crushing Novak Djokovic to end Britain’s interminable wait for a men’s champion at Wimbledon will be a springboard to take his career to the next level.
The 26-year-old became a national hero on Sunday when a 6-4 7-5 6-4 victory on a baking Center Court meant the nation could finally stop talking about Fred Perry who won his third Wimbledon title in 1936.
Murray’s stunning performance was hailed by everyone from politicians, movie stars and fellow sportsmen, as well as the millions who watched his landmark victory, but the Scot will not be milking the plaudits for long.
After attending the Wimbledon ball on Sunday he was planning to celebrate with his sizeable entourage, including coach Ivan Lendl on Monday, then, after a week of rest and relaxation it will be back to the grind.
“I know what it feels like to lose in finals, in a Wimbledon final, but now I know what it feels like to win and that’s certainly a lot better and it’s worth putting in the hard work for,” Murray told Reuters on Monday at the All England Club.
“I didn’t know last year that it was worth it because I had never won a grand slam before until the U.S. Open last year.
“After that you realize the hours you put in training, preparing and working on the practice court, it’s all worth it.
“So I hope this is a springboard for me and I will use it for my advantage.”
Murray, who now holds two of the grand slams and Olympic gold, was already a member of the exclusive All England Club but when he walked in on Monday after “a few hours sleep” he did so with Wimbledon champion as a new title.
It is quite an upgrade and the realization of what he achieved the on a momentous Sunday for British sport was slowly sinking in, but only after watching a few TV replays.
“The last game was something that stands out but I had to watch it a few times to remember what actually happened because when I came off the court I had no recollection of that game,” a relaxed Murray said.
“I had no recollection of the last few points in it at all. It was just a crazy way to finish the game and I didn’t think it would have happened for me any other way.
“For everyone watching it needed to be like that to make it more special.”
Murray had the whole country on edge as Djokovic saved three championship points in a row before Murray kept his nerve to engineer a fourth which he converted to spark wild celebrations.
His reaction to victory was a dazed walkabout on Center Court before climbing into the stands to hug his support group, girlfriend and mother Judy.
Last year’s Olympic gold was memorable but Murray said winning Wimbledon was the pinnacle.
“I think it’s number one, it’s different from the Olympics,” he said. “I think winning Olympic gold within sport is a huge thing but winning Wimbledon within tennis is the pinnacle and I don’t think I will ever top that.”
Murray beat Djokovic in the Olympic semi-finals and said that result had fuelled his belief that he could be the Serbian world number one again on the biggest day of his career.
“I spoke with Ivan the night before and we spoke about tactics and I watched my match against Novak in the Olympics semi-final from last year,” Murray, whose decision to hire Lendl as coach 18 months ago has proved an inspired one.
From a player with all the shots to win majors, Lendl has tweaked Murray’s mind to that of a champion too.
“We spoke again on the morning of the match and he basically said go out and work for every single point, that’s your court, your fans are going to be behind you, just bring the title home, and I managed to do it.”
With Murray and Djokovic both aged 26 and at the peak of their powers their rivalry looks set to dominate men’s tennis, especially with Roger Federer showing signs of a slow decline and doubts over the durability of Rafa Nadal’s knees.
Others like Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych are also threats but Murray is predicting plenty of exhausting battles ahead with old junior sparring partner Djokovic.
“I’ve known him since I was 12 and when we finish playing I’m sure we’ll get on really well with each other but right now it’s hard to be best of friends because these matches are so tough physically and mentally,” Murray said.
“The matches we play are brutal and so physically challenging. It’s nice we’ve know each other since we were kids and our parents have seen us kind of grow up together but it’s hard playing against him.”
Djokovic remains the world number one, for now, despite only having the Australian Open currently under his belt.
“It’s tough,” Murray said when asked if knocking Djokovic off his perch was a priority.
“Right now I hold two slams, the Olympic gold and the final of another slam and I’m still nowhere near number one in the world. The goal for me is to try and win the grand slams, win those tournaments and not worry too much about the ranking.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Justin Palmer