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July 8, 2013

Thanks to Murray, Britain's Wimbledon wait is over

(Continued)

LONDON — Only two men in tennis history lost their first four Grand Slam finals: Lendl and Murray. A defeat against Roger Federer in last year's Wimbledon title match dropped Murray to 0-4.

That day, Murray's voice cracked and tears rolled as he told the crowd, "I'm getting closer."

How prescient. Four weeks later, on the same court, he beat Federer for a gold medal at the London Olympics, a transformative victory if ever there was one. And 52 weeks later, on the same court, he beat Djokovic for the Wimbledon championship.

In between, Murray beat Djokovic in five sets at the U.S. Open in September for Grand Slam title No. 1.

"You need that self-belief in the important moments," observed Djokovic, a six-time major champion, "and he's got it now."

Judy Murray agreed that the setback 12 months ago "was a turning point in some ways."

"Every time you have a really tough loss, a loss that really hurts you," she said, "I think you learn a lot about how to handle the occasions better going forward."

For several seasons, Murray was the outsider looking in, while Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic collected 29 out of 30 major titles. But now Murray has clearly and completely turned the Big 3 into a Big 4, having reached the finals at the last four major tournaments he entered (he withdrew from the French Open in May because of a bad back).

"I persevered," the 26-year-old Murray said. "That's really been it. The story of my career, probably. I had a lot of tough losses, but the one thing I would say is I think every year I always improved a little bit."

He showed resilience Sunday. Murray trailed 4-1 in the second set, then 4-2 in the third, before wiggling his way back in front each time.

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