Serena, Murray turn mixed doubles debut into a Wimbledon event

Serena takes cover in mixed doubles (0:38)

After taking a fall on the grass, Serena Williams decides to take a seat to avoid getting hit. (0:38)

LONDON -- At the end of Roger Federer's straight-set win on Saturday at Wimbledon, the public address announcer informed the crowd there would be one more match to be played on Centre Court:

A mixed doubles match between Alexa Guarachi and Andreas Mies and Serena Williams and Andy Murray.

The crowd roared, and those who were heading for the exits quickly turned around and went back to their seats. They grabbed their phones out of their pockets and purses to take photos and text their envious friends.

After days of speculation about their partnership, and nearly 24 hours of waiting for their unscheduled opening round match to take place, "Serandy" would finally be taking the court. Pam Shriver, the ESPN analyst and former doubles standout, called it "the most talked-about mixed doubles draw in the history of tennis" earlier this week, and based on the reaction the duo received on Saturday, that might not be hyperbole.

"At some point I started feeling a lot of pressure," Williams said after the match. "Oh my God, I have to do well because this match is so hyped that I want to see it. I didn't even want to be in it, I kind of just wanted to watch it."

While mixed doubles is played at every Grand Slam, it very rarely gets a team featuring two singles champions. Let alone two singles champions who are as beloved and successful at Wimbledon as the eight-time champion Williams, and Murray, the man who ended the 77-year title drought for Great Britain at its home Slam, and has won twice at the All England Club. The opening round of mixed doubles is not the usual fare for Centre Court, but this is not the usual pair.

It was a lovefest from the first serve, with the crowd, perhaps slightly delirious after sitting in the sun for three previous matches, far rowdier and louder than normally allowed. "Come on, Serena!" "Come on, Andy!" "Come on, everyone!"

The champagne bottles popped throughout the match like it was New Year's Eve. And in a way, perhaps it was the dawn of a new day, bolstered by the hero's reception for both Williams and Murray. While neither player is unaccustomed to the big stage or crowd support, this was perhaps the most perfect, and fitting, reception for the two stars, who could each use a confidence boost as they have each been dealing with unique challenges that have affected their play and ability to compete.

Williams, 37, had a complicated childbirth with her daughter, Alexis Olympia, in September 2017, and has said she couldn't even walk to the mailbox for several weeks after due to the severity of the pain. She somehow made her comeback in the spring of 2018, and while she made it to the final at both Wimbledon and the US Open, she struggled and lost in both championship matches. She's been injured for much of the 2019 season, and has played in just a handful of tournaments to disappointing results. She advanced to the fourth round of singles earlier on Saturday with a dominant win over Julia Goerges.

Murray, 32, has suffered from chronic hip pain for several years, and he underwent surgery after the Australian Open this year. His future in the sport was very much in doubt, and retirement seemed all but imminent, by his own admission. However, he made his return in doubles last month at Queens, and was determined to play at Wimbledon this year. His run in the doubles event ended just hours before taking the court with Williams, as he and partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert fell in the second round. When Murray said there was a possibility for him to play mixed doubles before Wimbledon got underway, rumors began to circulate about his potential partner.

Thanks in part to the growing excitement over pairing with Williams, the dream team was formed. And the crowd made it clear right away about how grateful they were for it.

"It was a great experience being back on Centre Court with Serena after the last year or so being tough," Murray said after the match. "It was nice. I enjoyed it."

The two seemed to bask in the glow of the warm adoration from the stands. Despite both having played matches earlier in the day, they looked comfortable and at ease with one another -- laughing, joking, cheering on each other's best moments, and high-fiving, er, or fist-bumping. OK, that part didn't seem quite as natural as the rest, but it did make for a hilarious moment.

But overall, the two, who are both known for their on-court intensity and focus, seemed relaxed and even visibly happy at times. It was a different sight for both. Somehow even their mistakes were joyful. During the first set, Williams was playing at the net, and she tripped and fell, and more hilarity ensued.

"I just remember I slipped, then I was going to get back up," said Williams. "I saw a ball coming towards me, so I just kind of went back down. Then I couldn't get back up after that."

Murray then asked her if she had seen the video of it. "Yeah," she said. "It was hilarious. I decided to just stay down and let Andy do all the running."

But despite the hiccups, it was an impressive first match for the duo, who had managed to squeeze in just one practice together before taking the court. After a few testy moments in the first set, Serandy cruised to victory with a 6-4, 6-1 win in about 75 minutes.

Because at the end of the day, nothing is more fun for two storied competitors quite like winning.

"I think it was fun," said Williams. "I had fun out there. Some moments I thought were really fun. But we're obviously here to do well, but have fun at the same time."