In 1938, Henry ‘Bunny’ Austin played in the final of Wimbledon and so began a 74-year wait for another British men’s finalist. On Friday afternoon, Andy Murray answered the peoples’ prayers as he overwhelmed Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-5 to reach that prized place in the men’s final.
Murray’s path to the final of Wimbledon 2012 has not been easy and every one of his opponents has been, at one time or another, a top-20 player. With steely grit and determination, Murray has adapted his game well in each match and come out top, spurred on by the Wimbledon faithful who, this time, dare to believe.
Having appeared in three Grand Slam Finals before (Australian Open twice, US Open once), Murray will not be flung into completely new territory although there is a certain expectation, prestige and hope around Centre Court which will no doubt play through his head like a broken record. Fred Perry was the last Brit to win a Wimbledon title in the men’s singles and that was in 1936. Every single soul seated in Centre Court on Sunday will be fully aware of that fact, even Andy’s opponent.
As good as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are, they are not, and never will be, Roger Federer. Without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest tennis player to ever grace the green green grass of Wimbledon, Federer’s achievements speak for themselves.
He has held the top-ranking in the world for a record of 237 consecutive weeks and is one week short of equalling Pete Sampras’s record of 285 weeks (winning Wimbledon will see him complete this). He has won more Grand Slams than any other male tennis player (16) and has reached the Wimbledon final 8 times, eclipsing the likes of Boris Becker and Pete Sampras.
His style of tennis radiates beauty and grace and his single-handed backhand is the greatest ground-stroke on the tour. His accuracy and consistency is still at the top of the game and though he hasn’t won a Grand Slam since 2010, Murray is going to have one hell of a challenge to overcome if he wants to secure a place in history.
Murray and Federer have met each other on the tennis court nine times and the score lies at 5-4 in Murray’s favour. Murray’s ability to return shots was key as Federer, not the hardest of hitters, relies strongly on his tactical ability and accuracy. Whilst this record will be of little comfort to Murray, it may appease others who have thought twice about writing Murray completely off due to Federer’s usual dominance of Wimbledon finals.
Murray has had the tougher path to the final, no doubt about it, however Federer’s performance against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Friday, was the best tennis witnessed at the Wimbledon Championships this year. Djokovic, who’s beaten Federer the last three times they’ve played, had no answer for the Swissman’s accuracy and apart from the first few games of the second set, Federer always looked in complete control.
The game against Murray will offer him something different to think about though and if he plays as he did against Djokovic under the roof, then he will pick up his 7th Wimbledon title.
How Can Murray Win:
Play the best tennis of his life would be a great start. Although that goes without saying, there are certainly elements of his game that could contribute greatly if he were to win the title. Notably, and as always, his serve will have to be in fine form. One thing Federer does better than anyone is ensure his first serve creeps over the net and make no mistake, he’ll be doing it again on Sunday. Murray needs to match this and keep strong on his own serve. He’ll have chances on Federer’s serve but they’ll be of little consequence if he’s not managing to keep his own.
Murray’s beloved drop-shot will be on show again, especially as Federer is hardly known for his net ability (which is still incredibly good). However, Murray does like to bring opponents into the net and if he does so regularly, he’ll interrupt Federer’s game plan and make him vulnerable. The Swiss is almost 31 as well, so making the match last as long as possible may benefit Murray, although try telling that to Federer’s third-round opponent, Julien Benneteau.
Finally, with the crowd on his side, Murray can really step it up a notch. There was a distinct lack of energy around Centre Court on Friday during the match with Tsonga and though it picked up towards the end of the game, Murray is going to need it from the first touch of the ball on Sunday. Federer is a universally-adored player and there will be a large percentage in the crowd, and indeed Britain, urging him on to victory, but the majority will be hoping to see a British win and they will need to get fully behind their man.
How Federer Will Win:
By being Roger Federer; it’s simple, play in the manner he played against Djokovic, and he’ll have too much for Murray. The Scot will suffer mentally at one point and Federer will need to know exactly when to take advantage which he will unequivocally do.
People tend to cast a negative light on Murray’s taciturn appearance on-court, yet no one ever seems to say the same of Federer who shows a paralleled lack of emotion. Ice-cool and calm, the game will never be over against Roger until the umpire calls it. Federer is a fighter, maybe not in the same style as the likes of Nadal, but he will always play his brand of tennis and it’s usually too much for most.
Federer doesn’t miss – it’s not part of his style or game and this is where he’ll win the match. Murray loves to construct long-winded points and wait until his opponent messes up, but Federer won’t give him this satisfaction. Find the lines, as he always does, and get those first serves in and he’ll be walking home with his 7th Wimbledon title.
What’s Going to Happen:
This is the final that many were probably hoping for. Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player in the world and perhaps in history, and part of this is down to his persona. The guy oozes pure class and he’s a fan-favourite. If Murray were to lose in the final, many will find it easy to accept due to the fact that it means Federer has returned to winning ways.
That being said, Murray will, hopefully, realise how much this means to him (if he starts thinking about what the public want, he’ll lose) and dig deep. This is the biggest match of his life and probably his best chance to win a Slam. It’ll be a fitting victory and an excellent way to start London’s Olympic Games with a British win.
Tennis at its very best and a duel between two of the best players in the world, Andy Murray has a chance to make history and earn himself a place in that very same history. Winning Wimbledon would mean everything to him and he’s only one match away from that illustrious title. One more big effort and he’s there.