By Howard Fendrich
AP Tennis Writer
LONDON — The key to winning for Andy Murray might have been realizing that he could live with losing.
Way back when, at Wimbledon in 2012, he became only the second man in tennis history to come up short in the first four Grand Slam finals of his career (the other was Murray’s coach, Ivan Lendl, but more on him later).
“I was worried about the consequences of losing those finals,” the 29-year-old Scotsman said Monday at the All England Club, sitting near the 18-inch Challenge Cup, now and forever etched twice with “A. MURRAY” on the side.
Less than 24 hours after beating Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) for his second Wimbledon championship since 2013, Murray reflected on his setback against Roger Federer in the tournament’s title match four years ago, calling it “a really hard loss for me.”
“The day or so afterwards, I was really emotional. But I sort of accepted that I might not win one of these events and that I was actually doing everything that I could to give myself a chance to do it. And that was it,” he said. “That was probably around the time where I started to accept that it’s OK to not achieve what you want, if you’re doing everything you possibly can.”
It was important for Murray to head into big matches, as he put it, “not being afraid of failing.”
“Obviously, you don’t go out on the court thinking, ‘It’s no problem if I lose the match.’ But the reality is,” he said, “you can deal with the consequences of losing a tennis match. And I’ve learned that over the years, for sure.”
He entered Sunday having won two of his 10 previous major finals, all of which were against Federer or Novak Djokovic. This season, Murray had been 0 for 2, finishing as the runner-up to Djokovic at the Australian Open and French Open.
The No. 2-ranked Murray most certainly did not forget how to win a Grand Slam title, of course.
It just took him a bit to get back on track.
And now the question becomes whether his third major championship will propel to him to more — and, if so, how many more?
“For him, it’s a big step forward. What’s next for him is up to him,” said Raonic, a 25-year-old Canadian who had never before participated in a Grand Slam final.
Murray spoke Monday about not feeling satisfied, about aiming to add to his collection of major titles. He said becoming a father this year provided additional incentive to put in all the necessary work to continue to excel.
“I still feel very motivated,” he said. “And having won here again, it gives me a big lift, hopefully through to the end of this year and beyond, that I can win some more Slams.”
He said reuniting with Lendl after the French Open was all about that desire to add to his Grand Slam resume.
They split in 2014, after working together for Murray’s first two major titles. Now Lendl was back for No. 3.
“That’s not a coincidence,” said Murray’s mother, Judy, the former British Fed Cup captain.
“The focus, and the resetting of the focus if you start to lose it a little bit, is one of the things that (Lendl) helped him enormously with the first time he worked with him,” she said. “And because he’s worked with him before, it was easy for him to jump back in and just go, ‘I know exactly what you have to do to win a Slam.’”
As a player, Lendl — who went 8-11 in major finals — betrayed little emotion on court. The same goes for his guest-box demeanor as a coach. On Sunday, though, his eyes welled with tears when Murray won.
“Yeah, he was telling everyone it was allergies. That he had hay fever,” Murray said with a chuckle. “No, I don’t believe him.”
Murray knows from tears.
When he lost to Federer in the 2012 final at the All England Club, agonizingly near to giving Britain its first male champion at Wimbledon since 1936 — a drought he would end a year later — Murray’s voice cracked and he cried as he assured the Centre Court crowd, “I’m getting closer.”
And when he sat in his sideline chair after defeating Raonic on Sunday, now a two-time champion at the tournament that means so much to him, Murray covered his face with a towel as he bawled. Tears of joy, this time. Maybe, just maybe, he won because he wasn’t afraid to lose.