The experienced campaigner against the first-time finalist; the favourite against the underdog; the champion of 2013, the first home-grown hero to win in 77 years, against Canada’s first-ever grand slam finalist. Andy Murray against Milos Raonic: who has the edge?
Murray will certainly have home advantage with the majority of the 15,000 on Centre Court cheering him on, but he also has the benefit of feeling at home on the famous old court. He has played there so many times, he has won there and he has suffered crushing losses there. There is nothing left to surprise him on that patch of turf.
Better still, with ten grand slam finals behind him already, Murray also knows what every moment of the build-up feels like and what it can do to you.
“When I won Wimbledon, 40 minutes before I went on the court I didn’t know what was happening to my body, what was going on,” he recalled. “I was so nervous. I had felt absolutely fine in the morning. So when that came, I was like why was I not feeling that way two hours ago, what’s going on. And it’s just learning about those things. I know better how to deal with that now.”
Bringing Lendl back into his coaching set-up has given him renewed confidence while Lendl has kept the Scot’s sometimes volatile emotions in check. At the same time, Raonic has enlisted Lendl’s old rival John McEnroe to help him through the grass court season.
The media hype around the duel of the coaches has been played down by Murray as irrelevant – he is playing Raonic, Lendl is not playing McEnroe – and as a “non-story” by Lendl. Even so, since Lendl came back, Murray has been more focused, more controlled with fewer lapses like those at the French Open. Lendl wants him to be calm but ruthless and, so far, it is working.
McEnroe, meanwhile, has been trying to get Raonic to show a bit more emotion, internalise things less and let his feelings out. By recreating their charges in their own images, Lendl and McEnroe will indeed be vying for the title, even if only vicariously.
“I think John’s definitely put an emphasis on it,” Raonic said. “He sort of implemented it in the sense of from how he’s seen me play. ‘Too calm for you, you tend to be too calm, try to get energy out of you, try to get it out of you on court and leave it all out there, try to get the most out of yourself’.”
In theory, Raonic goes into today’s final with nothing to lose; he should be able to shoot from the hip and see what happens. But he is now 25 and since he first came to Wimbledon in 2011 he has known that grass should be his best surface, but it has not happened for him until now. That brings fear of failure.
Murray, on the other hand, has suffered some horrible losses in major finals and come back to win grand slam titles. As he told the BBC website: “I’m not scared to fail.”
And not being afraid to fail makes winning all the more possible.