LONDON – Milos Raonic battled all match trying to get to a level that was “good enough” to make him Canada’s first Grand Slam singles champion. In the end, he couldn’t quite get there.
The Thornhill, Ont., product lost in straight sets to Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final Sunday in the first major singles championship match to feature a Canadian man.
“That’s pretty much the thing you’re fighting the most, is to try to find a level that’s good enough,” Raonic said. “I was keeping up with him but when it counted I wasn’t able to get on top.”
Murray, the local favourite, topped the 25-year-old Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) to capture his second Wimbledon title and third major championship.
Raonic, who came into the match on a high after beating Swiss superstar Roger Federer in a five-set semifinal thriller on Friday, had a solid run at this year’s tournament.
Down two sets to love in the fourth round against Belgium’s David Goffin, Raonic found a way to pull through and advance to the quarter-finals, where he beat Sam Querrey in four sets.
“It was phenomenal,” Raonic said of his performance. “I stepped up in a semifinal that twice I struggled in in the past, I came back from two sets to love down which is a first time for me, I showed guts, I showed vigour and I have to carry that through to the next events.”
Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., is the only Canadian female to play in a Grand Slam singles final. She lost to Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon in 2014. Toronto’s Daniel Nestor is an eight-time major champion in doubles.
Earlier Sunday, Canadian teen Denis Shapovalov won the Wimbledon’s boys’ title, defeating Australia’s Alex De Minaur in three sets.
The 17-year-old Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., bounced back from a 6-4 loss in the first set to take the next two, 6-1, 6-3 respectively.
“The appreciation for tennis in Canada has considerably grown,” Raonic said. “There’s always a big contingency and a big showing and that’s a great honour to have that support. What happened today happened and I think the only thing I could ever regret was if I didn’t do everything I can to make myself return to this position again.”
Murray came into the tournament after losing to Novak Djokovic in the finals of both the Australian Open and French Open this year.
Three years ago, Murray became the first British man since 1936 to win the singles title at the All England Club. He also won the U.S. Open in 2012, a few weeks after winning the Olympic gold medal at Wimbledon.
The second-seeded Murray was playing in his 11th major final, but the first against someone other than Djokovic or Federer.
Raonic reached his first major final primarily on the strength of his speedy and intimidating serves, averaging 25 1/2 aces while being broken a total of only five times through six matches. But on a breezy afternoon, at a Centre Court filled with nearly 15,000 partisan fans, Murray basically shut down that integral part of Raonic’s game.
“He moves incredibly well, he returns well, those are his two biggest strengths,” Raonic said of his opponent. “I took care of my serve as much as I could and I needed to find a way to be a bit more efficient on returning. Every time you play him you know he’s going to get more returns back than anybody else.”
It’s been a rough few weeks for Britain, what with its vote to leave the European Union, the resulting drop of the pound’s value, and the subsequent 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.
Murray was even asked by a reporter during Wimbledon how it felt being Britain’s “last hope,” a question he jokingly dismissed by replying, “It’s not that bad, is it? Is it that bad?”
In a testament to Murray’s ability as a returner — a combination of timing and dexterity — it took Raonic 36 minutes and five service games to record his first ace. Over and over, Murray managed to get the ball back, even one that came in at 147 mph.
Raonic was limited to eight aces in all, only one more than Murray.
The tiebreakers were both one-way traffic. Murray 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 only once being taken to deuce.
Murray finished with a mere 12 unforced errors, while Raonic had 29.
“I’m going to work on everything,” Raonic said. “I’m not going to leave any stone unturned. I’m going to try to get myself back to this position and try to be better in this position. I’m going to try to get fitter, stronger, I’m going to try to improve my return game and improve my serve, improve my efficiency coming forward, defending.
“There’s not one thing that I’m not going to try and improve.”
— With files from The Associated Press