July 6, 2019
Andy Murray and Serena Williams played as though they had been together all their tennis lives.
They won in style. Understandable nerves at the start. Then a joyous procession. Harmony. Class. A new superstar dynamic for the game we love.
A kiss on each cheek from Andy to Serena. A broad smile from Williams. It worked.
‘It worked out well, it was a learning curve but we take it very seriously,’ said Serena.
‘All the energy is now focused on the mixed,’said Andy.
A magical evening. A perfect day to end one of the greatest first weeks in Wimbledon history.
Ashleigh Barty strutted her stuff emphatically against the brave Brit, Harriet Dart. Rafael Nadal dominated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Then Roger Federer did impossible things to beat Lucas Pouille.
All on Centre Court. No one could have dared to wish for this. But it happened.
Were you there? Don’t miss the second week. Roger, Rafa, Ashleigh, Andy and Serena will still be on show to provide spectacular entertainment.
Who was the boss out there, Murray or Williams? Serena brought the crucial early mental and physical strength to proceedings.
Andy more than played his part later. But Serena is never anything but the boss.
Even so she said: ‘We’re a team. There is no I in team.’
It is hard to imagine how Roger Federer making Grand Slam history on Centre Court could ever be upstaged by a mixed doubles match.
But Andy Murray’s return to the scene of his twin Wimbledon triumphs, partnered by the greatest Grand Slam winner of all time, just about did the trick.
So unique was the moment around 7pm when Murray and Serena marched out to rapturous cheers, so clealry box-office the partnership, that you just knew you were witnessing something very special.
Let’s not underestimate Federer’s achievement. By beating Lucas Pouille 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), he became the first man or woman to reach 350 Grand Slam victories.
Perhaps more memorably, Federer played one the most spectacular shots Centre Court has ever seen, while seizing a winning momentum early in the second set.
Scurrying so wide that he was even outside the doubles tram lines, Federer managed the virtually impossible.
Firstly, he reached the ball and fired it back over the net – something nearly all professionals twenty years younger would have failed to achieve.
But Federer did so much more, something magical and almost superhuman. He angled his shot so acutely on the stretch that is was unplayable, astonishing, a cross court work of art.
You could watch that beautiful moment a thousand times and still not understand how a man almost thirty-eight years old could do it.
‘I move well on the grass, it comes naturally to me,’ Federer said with remarkable understatement, given that he has won Wimbledon eight times.
But no wonder Federer seemed more interested in explaining how crucial his momentum was at the end of the first and start of the second.
The 350 landmark, he was keen to point out, could not be placed in a proper historical context because many players from days gone by didn’t play all the Slams because it was so hard to travel.
A lovely piece humility to shake off an impressive statistic.
But Federer on this form must feel he could push Rafael Nadal very hard indeed if the pair meet in the Wimbeldon semi-finals next Friday.
As for Murray and Serena, the chemistry was both electric and touching.
Murray seemingly experienced early self-doubt after his elimination from the men’s doubles with Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Almost before Andy’s match with Serena against Andreas Mies and Alexa Guarachi was in full swing, Williams seemed to sense her partner’s nerves. She whispered something in Murray’s ear and he smiled.
Then Serena led the way with some powerful, clever doubles play, buying time for Murray to find his stride.
Set points were squandered at 5-3 in the first, but they didn’t make the same mistake next game. Serena closed out with a wonderful backhand volley-come-smash, the platform supplied by Andy’s improving serve.
The crowd roared, the tennis superstars were on their way. And they broke immediately to maintain momentum.
Soon the smiles became more frequent. Andy and Serena weren’t just going to win this. They were going to savour the occasion too.
And why not with a 6-1 romp in the second set?
It was truly delightful.