Second Slam is sweeter for Murray

The thing Andy Murray said to the Centre Court crowd Sunday? "Yeah, it feels slightly different to last year." It was a greeting with his typical understatement.

A year ago, Murray had been in tears after losing the final, which left him without a Grand Slam title and extended Great Britain's drought of male champions for yet another year. Now, he had just scored the most high-profile victory of his career and brought the country's ballyhooed 77-year wait for a male Wimbledon champion to an end.

But that's Murray. Even delirious after winning, his version of running amok is climbing the stands to hug those in his players box -- after asking for permission.

"I didn't really know what I was doing the sort of minute or two after the match," Murray said the following morning. "Immediately after, I didn't know where I was looking or where I was walking. I was in a bit of a daze. And when I sat down, I kind of realized I'd been walking around for quite a while and I may want to go up and actually see the guys. So I asked the umpire -- sorry, the referee -- if I could go up and see them. He said, 'Yeah, if you're quick.' But it wasn't something I had planned."

The reaction elsewhere was not quite as restrained.

The grounds of the All England Club -- not to mention living rooms and pubs across the nation -- erupted with celebration as Murray converted his fourth match point to seal victory against No. 1 Novak Djokovic. The next day's front pages were a montage of Murray with the trophy, and he was the lead item in TV and radio news bulletins throughout the day.

This being Britain, fierce media and public debate immediately began about whether he should receive a knighthood -- opinion seemed to range between "right away" and "not quite right away." Even Prime Minister David Cameron, who had been courtside for the match and invited Murray to his home at Downing Street the following day, chimed in, saying "I can't think of anyone who deserves it more."

A future Sir Andy, however, remained unmoved.

"I think just because everyone's waited for such a long, long time for this, you know, that's probably why it'll be suggested," Murray said. "I don't know if it merits that."

He was bleary-eyed while speaking to reporters the morning after his win, having had just an hour of sleep the night before.

Wild partying? Not quite.

It hadn't taken long for the champagne to start flowing on the Wimbledon terrace after the final as Murray's parents, girlfriend Kim Sears and members of his team milled around a big crowd offering congratulations. Murray, however, barely had a few minutes to look in and make a phone call to his grandparents in between his postmatch cooldown, drug testing, news conferences and TV interviews.

He also got to exchange a few words with his coach Ivan Lendl, who has helped turn him from perennial Grand Slam finalist to winner of major trophies.

"I just said to him, just thanks so much for everything you've done for me, and he just said he was proud of me," said Murray -- the equivalent of a rousing talk for the taciturn pair.

In not-quite-Cinderella style, Murray arrived at the Champions Ball at midnight, remained until 2 a.m. and then grabbed a quick nap at home before returning to the All England Club to do more press at 8 a.m.

The private celebrations with his camp took place Tuesday, with British tabloids referencing a five-figure bill for drinks by the end of the night. Unlike their post-US Open dinner, when Murray's only contribution to the tab was a $6 lemon soda, he reportedly had a few shots this time around.

Being able to let go a little more this time was understandable given what the win represents.

Murray's victory at the Olympics last year, coming just weeks after his Wimbledon defeat, was a safety net of sorts -- a gold medal in front of the home crowd that would serve as compensation if he never managed to win a Slam. When he did win his first major at the US Open, after four previous Grand Slam final defeats, there was "relief" at finally doing what was long expected.

But if the US Open was the fulfillment of a personal goal, there remained Wimbledon -- the one tournament that really mattered to the national public. Murray's words after winning made it clear he understood his role. "I know how much people wanted a British winner, so I hope you guys enjoyed it," he said. "I tried my best."

Now, everything that was asked has been delivered. So there will be a question when Murray returns from a short vacation to begin training again -- what's next? Having admitted he doesn't think anything will top this Wimbledon victory, will he struggle to continue driving himself?

"I hope that doesn't happen. I hope I don't lose hunger," Murray said. "I think I should be able to use this as motivation. I know what it's like losing in a Wimbledon final, and I know what it's like winning one. It's a lot better winning, so the hard work is worth it."

Even in the afterglow of triumph, his eyes were focusing onward. "I just need to make sure I don't get sidetracked by anything," he said. "Yeah, enjoy it and celebrate and stuff, but go away, rest up and get ready for the US Open. Because I've never had to defend a Grand Slam before. ... That'll be a new experience for me, and [I] look forward to that."

Becoming No. 1 would be a natural next step, though the second-ranked Murray sounds frustrated at how far behind Djokovic he remains. "It's a tough one for me because [I] won two Slams, final of a third one and have the Olympic gold -- and I'm nowhere near being No. 1," he said. "I don't know exactly why that is, but maybe I need to be more consistent in the other events."

For Lendl, it's the results, not the numbers, that speak for themselves. "Under pressure right now, Andy has two majors and a gold medal," he told British reporters Monday. "If somebody has two majors and an Olympic gold medal and everybody else has only one major ... everybody can make their own opinion on that."

Either way, Murray says he is more focused on Slams than rankings. "I would rather not get to No. 1 and win more Grand Slams than never win another Grand Slam and get to No. 1," he said.

Whatever comes next, the prized accomplishments of the past 12 months have transformed his career and his reputation, taking him from nearly man to leading man in his sport -- or as Murray might describe it, not a bad year.