Wimbledon 2015: Fans’ favourites Murray and Federer set up 2012 rematch

Andy Murray beats Vasek Pospisil in straight sets to set up a Wimbledon semi-final against Roger Federer, who beat Gilles Simon

One could only have sympathy for the folk who joined The Queue in the hope of getting a prime spot to see their favourite player on men’s quarter-final day.

The demand to see Roger Federer has been huge for years, and as he approaches his 34th birthday and pursues his dream of a record eighth title here, the faithful fans—and thousands more—want to see him while they still can. Ask any red-clad person around the All England Club and they will tell you they have watched one match, only to leave and join the back of The Queue for the next. While he continues to play, they will continue to sleep, fitfully, on the ground.

But now space in that 48-hour line has just as big an army of fans just as eager to see their home champion, Andy Murray. For such is the fondness for this understated hero, such the records he has and continues to break, such the desire to be part of the story of one of the nation’s greatest athletes, that they too have joined The Queue in their hundreds.

The fact that these two superstars of Wimbledon were drawn in the same half, and so played on the same day, meant the competition to get a ticket was doubled… unless they played on different courts!

And on quarter-final day, they did: Sighs of relief all round that the two armies were not competing for the 500 seats in each arena.

But come the semi-finals, with The Queue a thing of the past, the two men themselves could themselves be competing—on opposite sides of the net. Indeed the safe money was on just that outcome, and what an outcome it would be. The last time they faced each other on Wimbledon’s Centre Court was in the glorious summer of 2012, with the Grand Slam glory going to Federer and, four weeks later, Olympic gold to Murray.

But before British tennis could soak up that tantalising prospect, both men had hurdles to leap.

For Federer, it was an old and tricky adversary, the 30-year-old Frenchman Gilles Simon, who in both previous Grand Slam meetings had pushed Federer to the five-set limit—and just last autumn had taken the Swiss to two tie-breakers in Shanghai.

A human backboard, one of the best counter-punchers in the game, a former world No6, currently risen back to No13 after assorted injuries, owner of 12 titles, has never been a grass-court maestro, but with age he has acquired more variety, more attack, and arrived at his first Wimbledon quarter-final fresh from an impressive semi run at Queen’s and the quarters in Nottingham. And if that was not enough to impress, victories over the flamboyant No18 seed Gael Monfils and former Wimbledon finalist, No6 Tomas Berdych certainly did.

Murray took on a very contrasting opponent, one making his mark at Wimbledon for the first time—in singles that is. The tall, strong, likeable Canadian Vasek Pospisil took the tournament by storm last year with partner Jack Sock, by winning the doubles title. And his doubles prowess has always shone through in his singles game, too.

Injury saw Pospisil slip from a high of 25 in 2013, when he reached his first Masters semi in Montreal, to a current 56, but make no mistake. Three losses to Murray in the last eight months counted for little if Pospisil’s confidence continued to rise.

Murray, though, was bidding to win his 150th Grand Slam match and reach his 17th Major semi-final, and the 2013 champion had one extra factor in his favour. Pospisil had already played three five-setters to reach the quarters, as well as three doubles matches—the last of them a five-set loss to Jamie Murray and John Peers, played on the same day as his five-set win over No22 seed Viktor Troicki. And that was a lot of tennis to carry in his legs.

But the 25-year-old showed all his doubles prowess in the opening game, and a sign of how he was going to tackle this match: a winning drop volley, winning serve, winning forehand and it was a love hold.

Murray, though, is able to mix it up with the best of them, and a fearsome return to the incoming Pospisil’s feet broke him in the third game. By the time the heavens opened, 13 minutes into the match, Murray was up 3-1.

When they returned, the points remained closely fought, no breaks, some strong serving, but Pospisil could not impose himself on Murray, who served out the set, 6-4, after 35 minutes.

There were flashes of brilliance on both sides of the net, with rallies boasting drops and lobs, slice and power, attack and defence. The Canadian, who carries with him a book of notes to help maintain his focus between games, held his own, but Murray was able to change the pace and direction more readily and more often. Give or take another half hour rain break—this time bringing the roof into play—Murray grabbed the break with two plunging net returns to serve it out, 7-5.

In the third set, though they stayed on level terms, it was again the Canadian who faced and resisted break points in three games. Then came a crucial call, a time violation for Pospisil—his second and therefore a second serve at 0-30—and Murray saw his chance to pounce for the break.

But even Murray hesitated briefly as he served for the match, making two errors to offer up his first break point. But his serve did the business, and he held with a flourish, 6-4.

It was a credit to Pospisil, on such a stage, with such a partisan crowd, and against a player of Murray’s grass class, that he took the former champion to two and a quarter hours. But Murray’s next test will be of a different order because, in somewhat less time and with rather more ease, Federer had indeed beaten Simon, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 in an hour and half.

Murray admitted: “I know Roger very well, we walked to the practice courts together this morning. But Friday is a different story and hopefully we can have a great match.”

Federer also reflected on that summer of 2012, when they shared the honours on Wimbledon’s Centre Court: “I think we both like to look back at that summer. I think if we knew before that I would take Wimbledon and he would win the Olympics, I think we both would have taken it.”

Federer went on to compliment Murray on returning to such form after undergoing back surgery at the end of 2013. Arguably, Murray is playing some of his best tennis, on his best surface, since then. But by the same token, Federer has had his serve broken only once—today—since the first round of Halle, where he went on to win the title. Now he will play in his 10th Wimbledon semi-final, and he has yet to lose one.

Come Friday, then, it won’t just be the Federer and Murray fans who are glued to their seats for what could be the match of the tournament.

Paul Merson
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