Andy Murray held up his hands and conceded he was the victim of another Roger Federer masterclass on Centre Court yesterday.
The Scot has again been given cause to rue the Swiss player’s nonchalant brilliance as his hopes of winning a second Wimbledon title were dashed for another year. But Federer remains on course to win an incredible eighth Wimbledon singles title, and an 18th Grand Slam in total, after defeating Murray 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 in an absorbing semi-final. He takes on Novak Djokovic, who defeated Richard Gasquet yesterday, also in straight sets.
Federer made another strong claim to be regarded as the best tennis player of all time with a performance that was as stylish as any he has delivered in the past. Fast approaching his 34th birthday, he cut his younger opponent down in just over two hours, with a serve that was close to perfection. He faced only one break-point throughout, and that occurred in the first game. Federer dropped just 21 points on serve all match.
“He clearly deserved to win the match,” said Murray. “He had more opportunities than me. It was a combination of him serving extremely well and me not returning so well on the first serve. At times I played some very good tennis. I served well. It was the best I probably served in the tournament myself. So, yeah, it is a tough one [to take].”
“Sometimes the stats come up on the court,” he added. “I was seeing he was serving 80 per cent in the first set, and he was in the high 70s for most of the match.
“When he was missing the first serves, I was winning over half of the points. But I don’t know how many times in the match he missed two first serves in a row. It wasn’t very often. It’s tough to gain much momentum that way.”
Even Murray playing as well as he did proved no match for Federer, who is now preparing to contest his 26th Grand Slam final. He has only won one Grand Slam title in the last five years, against Murray at Wimbledon in 2012, but remains hopeful of avenging last year’s defeat by Djokovic.
“Whoever it is against, it is always a big occasion,” said Federer. “That it is Novak, the world No 1, it obviously adds something extra.”
Federer dealt fairly comprehensively with the world No 3 yesterday. While clearly not in the mood to start dishing out compliments, Murray admitted Federer is in a select breed of tennis players who continue to excel well into their 30s. Murray also compared Federer to Lionel Messi in that he makes the game he plays look so easy.
“There’s very few players that have been able to do it, on the men’s side,” said Murray. “Obviously Agassi played some great tennis into his 30s. Jimmy Connors is another one that played well late.
“I don’t know if anyone’s played as well as Roger at that age. Serena [Williams] obviously on the women’s side is doing it. They’re pretty rare athletes. You know, they’re two of the best that have ever played the game.”
“To be great for a long time, you have to have so many different ingredients.” he added. “It’s physical, mental… I mean, the way he [Federer] plays the game is obviously nice to watch, as well. When people can talk about someone like Messi, people love the way he plays the game. He makes it look easy. But he [Federer] is a great sportsman, a great tennis player. It’s tough to say if he’s the best of all time. Serena’s got a fair shout.”
Murray must now try to overcome his evident disappointment ahead of next week’s Davis Cup clash with France, at Queen’s club. The Scot has not yet decided whether to return to the scene today to watch brother Jamie on Centre Court as he seeks to win his first Grand Slam men’s doubles title with partner John Peers against Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau.
“I may come… but I find it very, very difficult watching. I would love to. But I get extremely nervous. I’ll maybe ask Jamie if he would like me to come, if he feels like he would rather I wasn’t there or I was there. I’ll see what he wants.”