Andy Murray wins second Wimbledon title

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LONDON — Andy Murray’s first Wimbledon championship was for his country.

This one was for Andy Murray.

Dulling big serves with quick-reflex returns, conjuring up daring passing shots and playing impressively mistake-free tennis all the while, Murray beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) on Sunday for his second trophy at the All England Club and third Grand Slam title overall.

In 2013, Murray famously ended Britain’s 77-year wait for one of its own to win the men’s final at Wimbledon, a quest that became burdensome.

Now he wanted a victory to end his personal rut of three consecutive losses in major finals, including at the Australian Open in January, and French Open last month.

“It is different. I feel happier this time. I feel more content this time. I feel like this was sort of more for myself more than anything, and my team as well,” the second-seeded Murray said. “Last time, it was just pure relief, and I didn’t really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I’m going to make sure I enjoy this one.”

This was his 11th Grand Slam final, but the first against someone other than Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer. The sixth-seeded Raonic eliminated Federer in five sets in the semifinals Friday, and also defeated the player who stunned Djokovic in the third round, Sam Querrey.

Those wins helped Raonic become the first man representing Canada to reach a major final.

He did it, primarily, by averaging 25½ aces through six matches. But on a breezy afternoon, at a Centre Court filled with nearly 15,000 partisan fans, Murray shut down that integral part of Raonic’s game.

“This one’s going to sting,” Raonic said.

It’s been a rough few weeks for Britain, what with its vote to leave the European Union, the drop of the pound’s value, and the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who was seated in the front row of the Royal Box on Sunday, several seats over from Prince William and his wife, Kate.

During the trophy presentation, Murray joked: “Playing in a Wimbledon final’s tough, but I certainly wouldn’t like to be a prime minister. It’s an impossible job.”

Murray, a 29-year-old from Scotland, long dealt with the expectations that accompanied being Britain’s best chance to find a male champion to succeed Fred Perry, who last won the grass-court tournament in 1936. After Sunday’s victory, Murray’s mother, former British Fed Cup captain Judy, referred to that old phenomenon as, “The constant, ‘When are you going to win Wimbledon? When are you going to win Wimbledon? When are you going to win Wimbledon?'”

But her son has dealt with that and thrived, thanks to a counter-punching game and sublime returns of serve.

It took Raonic 36 minutes and five service games to record his first ace, and he wound up with only eight. Over and over, Murray managed to get the ball back, even one that came in at 147 mph.

And while Murray only broke Raonic once, to lead 4-3 in the opening set, that was all it took, because the tiebreakers were surprisingly one-way traffic.

Murray also took 50 of 65 points he served across the first two sets, not only never facing so much as a break point in that span but also being pushed to deuce merely once.

Finally, at 2-all in the third, Raonic got to 15-40 for his first — and, it turned out, only — break points, thanks to a forehand return winner off an 82 mph second serve.

“Potentially turning points,” said Carlos Moya, one of a trio of coaches for Raonic, including John McEnroe. “If he got that break, who knows what could happen?”

But Murray stood tall, taking the next four points to hold, then wheeled toward his box, pumping his right fist and yelling.

According to the official statistics, Murray made only 12 unforced errors, two in the second set. While that’s a subjective accounting, anyone watching and listening could plainly tell that he was striking the ball cleanly and confidently, a crisp thwack resonating as racket strings hit ball, much more often than not putting shots right where intended.

“Really good stuff,” Murray said.

His opponent’s take? “He was playing much better than me off the baseline,” Raonic acknowledged.

Taking it all in from Murray’s guest box, with seemingly nary a smile, was coach Ivan Lendl. They worked together when Murray won his first two Grand Slam trophies, including at the 2012 U.S. Open, then split up, before reuniting last month.

Once again, that partnership paid off, and at Wimbledon, no less.

When he sat in his sideline chair after the match concluded, Murray wiped away tears with a tournament towel.

“To do it twice here,” he said, “an event where there is a lot of pressure on me to perform well — I’m very proud with how I’ve handled that over the years.”

Nadal beats Dimitrov, one win from record 31st Masters title

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MONACO (AP) Rafael Nadal remains on course for a record 31st Masters title after beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

The top-ranked Spaniard never looked in trouble as he beat the fourth-seeded Bulgarian for the 11th time in 12 career meetings.

If Nadal wins Sunday’s final, he will earn a 76th career title and also keep his No. 1 ranking. Should he lose, Roger Federer will reclaim the top spot.

Nadal faces either third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany or Kei Nishikori of Japan, who play later Saturday.

In the opening game, Dimitrov came out firing. He pressured Nadal with two superb lobs, forcing a backhand smash wide from the Spaniard for deuce. But Nadal held a tight first game lasting eight minutes, and then broke Dimitrov for 2-0.

Dimitrov found his range, broke Nadal back and held for 3-3. The next two games were even, with Dimitrov matching Nadal in the rallies.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion held for 5-4 and then Dimitrov cracked, serving consecutive double faults and hitting a wild forehand long to trail 15-40. He saved one set point but Nadal was in ruthless mode and took the next chance.

It appeared that Nadal was gaining his usual momentum on clay – and two consecutive love breaks and three easy holds made it 5-0 to the Spaniard in the second set.

Dimitrov explained his collapse this way.

“I think I played smart against him. I kind of know his pattern a little bit better,” Dimitrov said. “But it was my fault when I got broken. Simple as that. Two double-faults, it’s just definitely not acceptable, especially when you play against him on that surface.”

Dimitrov finally held, drawing polite applause, but Nadal served out the match with ease. He clinched victory on his first match point when Dimitrov patted the ball wide following a brief exchange.

“You see me with a smile. I’m a positive person,” Dimitrov said. “Deep down, I’m hurt. I hate losing. Simple as that.”

Nadal shares the Masters record with Novak Djokovic, whose 30 wins include two here.

Nadal’s victory at Monte Carlo last year made him the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times. He then won a 10th title at Barcelona and the French Open.

 

Fed Cup: Stephens to open for US against France in semis

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens will open play for the U.S. against Pauline Parmentier of France in the Fed Cup semifinals.

France No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe will follow on Saturday in the second singles at the new 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix. France has opted for an indoor clay court.

Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse are set to face Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles on Sunday following the reverse singles.

France and the United States meet for a 14th time, with the Americans holding an 11-2 winning record. The French won their most recent meeting, in 2014.

Both teams are missing their highest-ranked player: No. 8 Venus Williams for the U.S., and No. 7 Caroline Garcia for France.

Germany is facing the Czech Republic in the other semifinal in Stuttgart.