Andy Murray ended a 71-year wait for a British winner at Queen's tournament, easing past the United States' James Blake in straight sets (7-5, 6-4) to triumph in the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event.
AFP - Top seed Andy Murray defeated James Blake 7-5, 6-4 in the Queen's final on Sunday to become the first British winner of the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event for 71 years.
Murray was the fifth British man to reach the final here since Bunny Austin's triumph in 1938 and he finally ended the long wait for a homegrown success with another dominant performance in west London.
The Scot's first grass-court title took his career haul of tournament victories to 12 and was also his fourth Tour triumph this year.
After several years spent climbing towards the sport's upper echelons, Murray is firmly established as a big-game player and will be regarded as one of the main challengers for the Wimbledon title when the All-England Club tournament begins on June 22.
He didn't drop a set all week and it is worth noting that when Austin won here all those years ago he went on to reach the Wimbledon final just a short while later. Perhaps Murray can emulate that feat as well.
"It's been a great week. This is some of the best tennis I've ever played in my life," Murray said. "I was quite nervous because people were telling me no Briton had won here for quite a while but when I had my chances I managed to take them.
"The only thing left is to get a Grand Slam. Hopefully I can do that at Wimbledon in a couple of weeks."
Blake added: "He's pretty good. Everyone knew that and I want to congratulate him on a great week."
Blake has always savoured his trips to Queen's more than most other stops on the Tour as his mother Betty was born and raised in England. The American also had unfinished business in west London after losing the 2006 final here to Lleyton Hewitt.
But Murray had been in imperious form en route to the final as he brushed aside Andreas Seppi, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Mardy Fish and Juan Carlos Ferrero.
The world number three has become accustomed to the extra tension that comes with a final appearance, this was his ninth in the last 12 months, and he made a typically fast start.
A flashing backhand down the line earned Murray his first break point in Blake's second service game before an error from the American secured a 2-1 lead.
Murray had faced only one break point on his serve all week, but his concentration wavered, allowing Blake to claim two break points in the next game. The sixth seed took the second of them with a perfect forehand to draw level.
For the first time this week, Murray wasn't having it all his own way as Blake, cleverly mixing aggression with more subtle shots, showed he wasn't going to be pushed around so easily.
Murray was still capable of moments of brilliance though. Chasing down a Blake drop-shot just inches from the net, he produced a sublime drop-shot of his own to hold serve for 5-5.
Suddenly Murray upped his tempo and this time Blake was unable to respond. A pair of booming groundstrokes pushed Blake deep behind the baseline and his attempted return drifted into the net to give Murray the break.
Murray was hitting with more venom now and he easily held serve to take the set.
To his credit, Blake responded well and the second set quickly became a tense struggle for supremacy.
The decisive moment arrived in the seventh game. At 3-3, Murray earned a break point with a perfectly-placed backhand. Another strong return of serve put Blake in trouble and his volley slapped into the net.
Murray could scent victory and Blake was powerless to prevent him crossing the finish line.
A series of precision serves earned championship point and, as Blake's netted forehand ended the contest, Murray celebrated with a clenched fist before rushing to courtside for a kiss with his mother.
Date created : 2009-06-14