Wimbledon: Andy Murray on the brink of history

ANDY Murray stands on the brink of greatness this morning after becoming the first British man in 74 years to reach the singles final at Wimbledon.

The Scot now needs to take just one last historic step into the record books – but the man standing in his way tomorrow afternoon happens to be one of the legends of the sport, six-time champion Roger Federer. Murray beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in yesterday’s second semi-final, overcoming his French opponent in four sets, winning 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Earlier, Federer had turned in a truly majestic performance to dismiss top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, also in four sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The imperious display by the Swiss No 3 seed was reminiscent of the glory days when he stood alone at the peak of world tennis, before Djokovic and Rafael Nadal came along to challenge his dominance. It was so accomplished, so assured, that Murray would be well advised not to dwell on it too much, and concentrate instead on his own performance.

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The same goes for the burden of history, which has weighed heavily on many a British hopeful here since Bunny Austin became the last home player to reach the final, back in 1938. Austin lost that match, which came two years after Fred Perry won the last of his three titles.

The miniature statue of Perry in the long trousers of the era has long been one of the iconic items within these grounds. Every year, the BBC cameras linger on it, and the question it implicitly asks is now so obvious that we have no need of Sue Barker or any other presenter to voice it out loud: Will we ever see another Briton who can do what Perry did and lift the crown? His era has gone for ever: has his glory also vanished for good?

Steeped in the history of his sport, Murray knows all about the length of time British tennis supporters have waited. And he knows, too, that when he walks out on to Centre Court a little before 2pm tomorrow, he has to forget about that burden of history. Defeating Federer will be a heavy enough duty without worrying about anything else.

“You don’t really think about it that much,” he said last night when asked if he had felt that weight of expectation during his win over Tsonga. “But I think, like, subconsciously at the end of the match it was obviously very emotional.

“Haven’t really been like that before in a semi-final match, so obviously it meant something to me and it was very, very important.

“And there is obviously a lot of pressure and stress around this time of year. I don’t feel it when I’m on the practice court or when I’m just kind of walking around.

“I try not to think about that stuff. But, yeah, in the back of my mind it’s obviously there.”

And in the front of his mind, meanwhile, Federer must loom very large. The Swiss player has already set a record by reaching his eighth final, and is bidding to equal William Renshaw and Pete Sampras’s record of seven victories.

“He’s one of the greatest players ever to have played,” Murray said of Federer. “ I’d be surprised if he wasn’t the best in terms of his win/loss ratio here. And he’s been doing it consistently over a number of years. The matches he has lost in the last couple of years was five sets against Tsonga, five sets against [Tomas] Berdych, five sets against Rafa. He’s very, very tough to beat here.

“It’s a great challenge, one where I’m probably not expected to win the match, but one that, if I play well, I’m capable of winning.

“But if you look at his record here over the past ten years or so, it’s been incredible. So the pressure that I would be feeling if it was against somebody else, I guess it would be different. But there will be less on me on Sunday, you know, because of who he is.”

Less pressure on him, and more support for him. Middle England may have been slow to get behind Murray, but there is little doubt that the vast majority of the crowd tomorrow – both around Centre Court and on Henman Hill – will be backing the Scot.

“I’m going to need all their help on Sunday, because it’s a massive challenge to win against Roger, in the final of a slam, at Wimbledon,” Murray added. “I hope that all of the crowd is with me.

“I’ll need all of their support. It’s been great so far. They’ve helped me out through some tough moments the last couple of matches, and I’ll definitely need it again on Sunday.”