From his tears of disappointment at Wimbledon to his disbelief in triumph in New York, Andy Murray has bookended a giddy and unprecedented summer of British sporting success.
Following narrow defeat at the All England Club, Murray provided a glorious coda in the early hours of Tuesday morning with a US Open victory in his fifth grand slam final.
As his achievement in becoming the first British man in 76 years to win a grand slam singles final sank in among the 1.5 million who had stayed up to watch and the many millions more who woke to the news, the man who had carried the weight of expectation before Murray took over the burden paid tribute.
"I definitely see him going on to win more," said Tim Henman, who only ever got as far as a grand slam semi-final in his bid to match Fred Perry. "How many he can win, only time will tell. The Olympics and this will give him so much confidence. I said the first one would be the hardest but I think it will be the first of many, I really do."
After one of the longest finals in history came the celebration – and a bill for $6,448 (£4,000) at the Ling Ling bar in upmarket Chinese restaurant Hakkasan. The bill covered drinks all round for his entire backroom staff, and included 17 "Zesty Martinis" at a total of $255, although Murray restricted himself to a $6 lemon soda. The restaurant picked up the tab, with Murray paying only for service and tax.
The morning after featured a television appearance on the CBS breakfast show, a photoshoot with the trophy in Central Park and a reception at British consul Danny Lopez's official residence in Manhattan, where he was welcomed by a Scottish piper playing Scotland the Brave and was offered Hula Hoops, Maltesers and Hobnobs. Murray opted for a drink of Scotland's Irn-Bru.
Attempting to describe his emotions, he said: "I've dreamt things and thought about it but you never get the same feeling as when it actually happens. I was in a bit of shock and after that you're very relieved. I wasn't able to sleep. I wasn't bouncing off the walls or anything, I just couldn't go to sleep, I was just sitting awake for a few hours. I'm very excited but it'll probably take a few days for it to sink in."
Ivan Lendl, who like Murray lost four grand slam finals before breaking his duck and going on to win eight, was similarly restrained in victory.
Although he did afterwards hug his charge in an awkward locker room embrace, it was soon broken up when another member of Murray's team covered them both with champagne and the Czech began swearing. "Hopefully, we're not anywhere near where Andy can get," said Lendl after Murray's breakthrough victory. "I didn't come here to have a good time – I came here to help Andy win. He did, so it's job done."
The Scot has spoken many times of his ill fortune in reaching his peak at a time when his vanquished opponent Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have dominated. But with each now facing their own challenges, there are high hopes for further success at grand slam level.
The overwhelming feeling for Murray was one of relief after winning an epic final, full of punishingly long rallies, 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in four hours and 54 minutes.
"I was still doubting myself right up to a few minutes before I went on to play the match. You're thinking, are you going to be able to do this? This is going to be tough. I have been in this position many times and not managed to get through," he said Murray after winning.
"At the beginning of the fifth set I went to the toilet and said to myself: 'Give it all you've got'. And I did."
The match, which equalled the longest ever US Open final, changed direction almost as often as the unrelenting wind on the Arthur Ashe court as Djokovic clawed back a hard-won two-set advantage that had TV tennis fans gripping their sofas in the early hours fearing the worst.
But Murray found new reserves of strength to take the fifth and lay a 76-year hoodoo to rest.
The new sensation of winning a grand slam final was initially hard to deal with.
"I'm thinking a lot just now. I'm thinking a lot about a lot of different things. It's hard to explain," he told reporters.
"It's been a long, long journey. I don't know if it's disbelief or whatever. I'm very, very happy on the inside; I'm sorry if I'm not showing it as you would like."
The 25-year-old Murray has long considered the US Open one of his favourite tournaments and he has often cut a more relaxed figure among the celebrities and bright lights of Flushing Meadows than under the intense pressure and endless probing of Wimbledon fortnight. He first attracted widespread notice when he won the junior event in New York in 2004.
There will doubtless be attempts to link Tthe 25-year-old's success to the momentum of a golden Olympic summer, but in truth his thrilling and physically gruelling victory was 25 years in the making.
It was one born in Dunblane and nurtured by his tennis coach mother Judy, honed by the Sanchez-Casal tennis academy in Barcelona that he left home for at 15, and later by a series of coaches amid myriad triumphs and disappointments and finally delivered by the taciturn tennis legend Ivan Lendl, whom he hired last season.
Given the paucity of British talent in the sport over recent decades, it is a tribute to Murray's remarkable consistency that in his last eight grand slam tournaments, he has reached three finals, four semi-finals and a quarter-final – not to mention overcoming Federer on Wimbledon's Centre Court to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
Following his victory, Murray leapfrogged double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah in the betting for the most competitive BBC Sports Personality Award of all time, though he remains behind another who bucked history this summer – Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins. Murray said : "A lot of my friends have been messaging me about it and I don't really know what to say. I think it should take more than one or two good tournaments to deserve something like that. It would probably be a bit rash."
That gold medals at four consecutive Olympic Games only makes you a 150/1 shot, as in the case of sailor Ben Ainslie, says something about the depth of the field.
The Scot hailed the inspirational effect of Britain's magical sporting summer: "Being around the Olympics and seeing how the nation came together, from the public to the athletes to the press, everyone was just right behind it.
"I saw some of the pictures of the parade and it's just amazing to see how pumped everyone was. It's been amazing to be part of it," he said.
"Sport has been this huge part of my life since I was a kid and it's been the best summer of sport in my lifetime and I'm sure in most people's. It's been so much fun and I'm just happy I was able to contribute towards it."
Despite his at times breathtaking tennis, gritty tenacity and plenty of evidence he has managed to buck the modern trend and retain a semblance of a personality beneath layers of media training, Murray has had to work hard for the affection of the middle England crowds that throng SW19 every June.
That all changed this year. His tears following a four set defeat to Roger Federer in this year's Wimbledon final were followed by his warmly acclaimed success on the same court at the Olympics.
Murray's earnings are now likely to skyrocket, according to marketing experts, and head towards the levels of a Federer or a Tiger Woods. With further grand slam success, he could triple his current annual income of £8m a year.
But his advisers at Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment, the company set up by the Spice Girls guru that also manages David Beckham and Lewis Hamilton, are unlikely to want to smooth the rough edges that they believe have endeared him to a generation of younger tennis fans.
Nor is he likely to want to sacrifice the balance he has struck between his low-key private life with girlfriend Kim Sears and the demands of sponsors. His commitment to the latter, however, was illustrated when some of his first words on sealing a famous victory were: "Where is my watch?" Murray frantically searched for the £2,500 timepiece before members of his box finally told him to look in his bag. The Scot, needless to say, recently signed a sponsorship deal with the upmarket Swiss watchmaker Rado.
Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Roger Draper expressed hopes that Murray's victory would attract more young people into the sport and help reverse declining participation trends over the past four years. Draper hopes Murray's success will also inspire those rising the rankings behind him, including Oliver Golding, who won the US Open juniors last year and Liam Broady, who lost in the boy's final this time around.
But, in truth, this was a victory fashioned outside the system, rather than because of it, and born of the grit, determination and talent of one man with a restless appetite for winning that is unlikely to be sated by his historic New York title.
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