It’s a little bit like sitting in a very frail canoe at the top of the world’s largest waterfall.
At just after 2pm this afternoon, Andrew Barron Murray will find himself on the biggest stage in tennis, for arguably the biggest match in the Open era of men’s tennis, and the biggest match of his 25 years.
The level of Andymonium that will strike the grounds of the All England Club on Sunday is something none of us fortunate to work in this sport can possibly be prepared for. The Saltire will be flying from No.10 Downing Street. Even Coldplay have tweeted him their good luck. Scotland, England, Britain, the world, and everyone expects. But the person that expects the most, no matter how much he tries not to betray it, is Murray himself.
“I mean, almost every time you step on the court you're trying to prove something to yourself,” Murray said. “I think that's kind of what motivates you to get better. Also the players that are around me, as well.
“They would be the two things that I think you can't stay at the top of, you know, any sport, especially one as competitive as tennis, if you don't have very good self‑motivation. I think that's very important. Obviously I'll be very motivated on Sunday.”
Sunday the 8th July 2012 marks the British No.1’s fourth Grand Slam singles final, his first at these Championships, and one which has finally removed the controversial shorts-sporting Bunny Austin from the record books as Britain’s last male Grand Slam finalist at Wimbledon. A 74-year stretch the family of the man formally known as Henry Wilfred are no doubt delighted to hear the end of.
But the record that remains, the 76 years since Fred Perry lifted Britain’s last men’s Grand Slam singles trophy, is the only one that matters to Murray. He said it himself. “It’s not the end of the tournament yet.
“The time for all of that stuff comes when I'm done. You know, I spoke to Ivan after the match. It was, Good job. You did really well. What time do you want to practice tomorrow? That's it. There's no time for anything else.”
It is sentiment like that which embodies how this particular Scot has evolved into one of the most single-minded and focused competitors in the sport.
Murray freely admits that his first major final, against Roger Federer at the US Open in 2008, passed him by almost before it had begun, the Swiss winning 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 as the scraggly-faced Scot tried to take in his surroundings.
The second, a year and four months later, on a different major hard court, but against the same foe, was an altogether more damaging experience. The tears Murray shed after another loss to Federer, 3-6, 4-6, 6-7(11), were from no crocodile.
And the third, a year after that, on the same hard court against a different foe, was depressing for a different reason. Murray had a game plan that seemed to go out of the window against Novak Djokovic, the Serb’s extraordinary self belief making Murray look like he didn’t believe in himself at all as he triumphed 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Back to the chalk and blackboard.
A year and six months later, with Ivan Lendl in his camp, Murray has arrived at his fourth major final, arguably the one that holds the most import of them all.
And, unlike his fellow members of the Big Four, all of whom won their first major title against lesser opponents, both in ranking and experience, yet again, Murray will have to take on not only one of the world’s best, but one of Centre Court’s greatest champions. The same man Federer.
He may lead their head-to-head 8-7 in overall tournament play, but the Scot has never beaten the Swiss at a Grand Slam. Let alone in a Grand Slam final.
“He's obviously one of the greatest players ever to have played,” Murray said of Federer. “He's got probably ‑‑ not sure who has a better win/loss record than him here. I'd be surprised if he wasn't the best in terms of his win/loss ratio here.
“And, yeah, he's been doing it consistently over a number of years. The matches he has lost the last couple of years was five sets against Tsonga, five sets against Berdych, five sets against Rafa. He's very, very tough to beat here.”
But even if the world pronounces that Murray is not expected to win, that does not mean he can’t or won’t. After all, it would be just like him to do so.
Buckle up Britain. Whatever the result, it’s going to be quite an afternoon.
Murray: tournament stats
Aces / Double Faults
First serves in
First / second serve points won
77% / 65%
Service games won/lost
Fastest serve / average first serve speed
Returns in play
Break points won/total
FH winners / BH winners / overall winners
Total net points won
Total court time
Murray: road to the final
6-1, 6-1, 6-4
7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(4)
7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1
7-5, 6-2, 6-3
6-7(5), 7-6(6), 6-4, 7-6(4)
6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all