Wimbledon 2012: Federer and Murray face the final frontier

Six-time champion Roger Federer and British No1 Andy Murray prepare for the 2012 Wimbledon final

andy murray
Andy Murray is the first British man to reach the singles final in 74 years Photo: Marianne Bevis

andy murray

It’s on days like this that you wonder how the two men at the centre of the whirlwind slept.

The tension, the anticipation and the expectation have been building since day one.

By the end of week one, with Andy Murray safely through some early dangerous opponents and with Rafael Nadal sent packing by an outsider, the sub-editors were hard at work competing for headlines.

Murray-mania was underway, but now there was also the quiet well-oiled sound of some Swiss engineering promising to make some headlines: Roger Federer was gearing up for some history of his own.

After a close call in the third round, coming back from two sets down, and overcoming a back problem in the fourth, the five-time champion surged through the quarters.

Come semi-final day, and the records that lay on the line for both men were being measured, counted and compared should the two find themselves competing for the title. Both were asked about pressure, about the importance of their potential achievements, about their next opponents, and about each other.

And with both saving their best for last—Murray digging deep with impressive calm and confidence against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Federer beating defending champion Novak Djokovic with more ease than expected—the dream final was set.

For Murray, the flag of Scotland will flutter over Downing Street alongside the British one. The population of his small home town of Dunblane, totalling around half the number who will watch inside Wimbledon’s Centre Court, will gather around communal screens to cheer on their quiet hero. And the hundreds who have queued in the rain simply to sit on ‘Murray Mount’ will generate an atmosphere at the All England Club that may not have seen since Virginia Wade won here in 1977, in Wimbledon’s centenary year and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year.

Perhaps the atmosphere will top even that. For Murray is aiming to become the first man to win the singles title here since Fred Perry in 1936, indeed the first British male to win a Grand Slam singles title since Perry won the US Open in that same year. And Murray’s campaign has dovetailed in the most pleasing way with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 London Olympics.

And for Federer, there is the small matter of attempting to regain the No1 ranking if he wins a record-equalling seventh singles title. On both counts, the name of one of his heroes looms large. Pete Sampras leads Federer by just one week in holding the No1 ranking for 285 weeks. Sampras, along with Williams Renshaw, also tops the list of most singles Wimbledon titles. Federer is already the first player to reach eight Wimbledon singles finals since they abolished the Challenge Round in 1922. And now, already with a record 16 Major men’s titles, he could equal the Sampras and Renshaw seven.

Both Murray and Federer, from such a perspective, have remained remarkably calm—on the outside at least. They have answered the questions temperately, carried the pressure gracefully, but both seemed destined to shed more than a few tears when one of them makes history.

Murray:
“It’s a great challenge. I’m probably not expected to win the final but if I play well I’m capable of winning it. Federer’s record here over the past 10 years has been incredible, so there is less pressure on me because of who he is…He’s obviously one of the greatest ever. The possibility of beating Roger is obviously something very nice but I can’t allow myself to think that far ahead.”

Federer:
“I have a lot of pressure, as well. I’m looking forward to that. I’ve worked extremely hard since I lost that match point against Novak last year at the US Open. My run has been extremely good. Now I have a chance at world No1, at the title again all at once. It’s a big match for me and I hope I can keep my nerves. I’m sure I can. Then hopefully win the match.”

Murray:
“Roger lost a couple matches from a couple sets up the last few years. So whereas in the past you might have thought going two sets down it was impossible, there’s still time to come back. But ideally you want to try to get off to a good start. That would make a big difference, I’m sure. I just need to try and make sure I play a perfect match on Sunday.”

Federer:
“People here should be happy that [Murray’s] such a great player and he’s only going to get better as time goes by. I love it that I’m going to be playing him. I always say in whatever country I am I like to play the local hero, and Andy is exactly that here at Wimbledon…I hope I have some crowd support, but it’s not the most important thing right now.”

Murray:
“I hope that all of the crowd is with me. 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.”

Federer:
“I’m very proud to have a shot of equalling Pete. Everybody knows what a hero he is to me and how much I admire what he’s been able to achieve in tennis.”

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