Fred Perry was a tennis legend whose name lives on through his sportswear insignia but last night at Wimbledon all the garlands belonged to Andy Murray as the Scot clinched his place in tomorrow’s final and with it a new record.
Having previously shared the distinction with Perry of the most Grand Slam final appearances by a Briton, Murray will move out on his own with 11 after a straight-sets victory over the Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych.
Following the lurching, and lengthy, drama of his previous match, this was as convincing and clinical a victory as he could have wished for – 6-3 6-3 6-3 in two minutes under two hours. Tomorrow will be Murray’s third final at the All-England Club and opponent Milos Raonic of Canada must surely have been impressed by this imperious performance.
In the game of poker we play with our own emotions while watching Murray trying to win Wimbledon, there comes a moment when we’re prepared to risk a set being lost. This’ll be good for him, we say, unsure if it will be good for us but – deep breath – there’s a willingness to try.
That moment came against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-final, only for one set to become two.
Uh-oh. “There’s NO WAY I’m losing this match!” roared Murray. Was he shouting at us? No, Ivan Lendl got it. His super-coach gave it back the only way he knows how: with the stone-faced expression that would unnerve everyone else but seems to work wonders for Murray.
The man from Dunblane insisted the dethroning of Novak Djokovic wouldn’t become an issue until later in the championships because there were plenty of tough opponents in his half of the draw. Tsonga was definitely one and Berdych potentially another, with Murray only leading eight-six on the head-to-head, although the most recent four were all won by him.
There was a theory the key to this match lay in the second serve: Berdych is bold with his; Murray’s had been excellent until Wednesday when some of the old wobbles returned. In the final analysis, Murray achieved a 55 per cent win return, while he really went gunning for Berdych’s second serve, the No 10 seed only winning 37 per cent.
Murray broke Berdych right away only for Berdych to do the same to him. After that there was little opportunity for either man until the eighth game when Berdych, who had found his range and was finding the baseline well, especially on the forehand, went too long. Murray grabbed his chance, and the set, with an ace.
This pair had previous: coach wars, or super-coach wars, down in Melbourne when Berdych tried to “steal” Lendl. He ended up with Murray’s friend Dani Vallverdu, which provoked the Scot’s future-wife Kim into firing a volley of sweary words at the Czech player.
Their relationship was later patched up and here they traded blows with little drama. As on Wednesday there was a lack of atmosphere, the Centre Court fans again needing a wee lie down after another five-set Roger Federer epic. Murray had been too gracious to complain about this afterwards, though he had made sure to seek their full support after they’d returned with one of his trademark roars.
Here service games were straightforwardly won and there were few rallies to get the crowd – when it was back to full complement – going. Then came two break chances for Murray; not taken. Then two for Berdych; same result, although that game went to five deuces. It was Murray’s turn next game and this time he got what he wanted, fistpumping wildly. And he didn’t hang about for his own service to wrap up the set, breaking Berdych again with the winning point a searing, running forehand down the line.
Now, would he let Berdych back in like he did Tsonga? There was a sticky game on his serve at one-all but next game a cunning change of angle on a forehand bamboozled Berdych and Murray soon had another break. He had little need to worry about his second serve because he rarely required it. Then an astonishing lob while rushing to the net clinched a 4-1 lead.
It can never be called routine when a Wimbledon final is achieved – never for a Brit and not for Murray. There was no inevitability about this victory but it seemed to always be coming. That is down to the ferociously high standards Murray sets and he seemed ready to beat himself up when a chance to win with another break of the Berdych serve came and went.
The outcome was delayed one more game. Murray went for the spectacular with a thundercrack of a forehand. That didn’t quite work but compensation for the tennis aesthetes came next point with a sweetly-kissed drop-shot, before an ace set him up for tomorrow and the chance to become Britain’s greatest-ever sportsman.
If he isn’t already.