All thrills, hardly any spills, as Murray storms into the final. How very un-British...
Charlie Cooper reports from SW19 on a semi that didn't end in tears
Charlie Cooper is Health Correspondent for The Independent, i, and The Independent on Sunday, writing on the NHS, medical advances, and international health. Since joining the papers as an editorial assistant, he has been nominated for young journalist of the year at both the Press Awards and the British Journalism Awards.
Saturday 07 July 2012
From the beginning it had the air of a portentous day. The clouds loomed overhead, and great tracts of British countryside were pounded by rain and drowned by floodwaters. There was even talk that lightning might strike London. But over a little corner of the city that has forever been the All England, the sun shone on a Scot who has often struggled to win the hearts of the nation – until now, perhaps.
On Murray Mount, the ground was a slippery sludge yesterday afternoon, bringing a touch of Glastonbury Festival thrills to proceedings. But fears it would turn into Murray Island proved unwarranted. Shortly after 3pm, the leaden clouds parted; blue sky was visible. The fans, whether waving Union Flags or Saltires, were feeling positive. Federer had won his semi-final, and the statistically minded told each other that our man has a better record against Roger than Novak Djokovic, having won eight of their 15 matches.
But first there was the small matter of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the man who stood between Andy Murray and the Wimbledon final. Fortunately for those on the Mount, he now has the unenviable statistic of being the first man to lose to a Briton in a Wimbledon semi-final for 74 years.
The fans up on the hill, and all around Centre Court, were with Murray for every heartbeat. At 5.45pm, a good omen came. The Brit, Marray, had won. Yes, that's "M-a" at the start. Jonathan Marray and his Danish doubles partner Frederick Nielsen had beaten the American Bryan brothers in their semi. Now all that history had to do was change a single letter.
And so it came to pass. After two hours and 47 minutes, Murray won, only dropping the one set and sparing the crowds the usual roller-coaster ride. No heartbreak today.
After all the heart-pounding action, it fell to the cold eye of technology to decide the match. The line judge called Murray's winner out. The computer said otherwise, but only after an agonising few seconds. In the final, not in the final, in the final… But even then the crowd showed few signs of nerves; they seemed to believe.
As terse as his interviews can be, the crowds love Murray. And so do the great and good of politics, who last night were effusive in their praise for the 25-year-old. "An amazing achievement after 74 years of hurt," wrote Labour leader Ed Miliband on Twitter. Not to be outdone, the Prime Minister tweeted: "It is great news that we have our first home-grown men's finalist for over 70 years."
Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, reclaimed his man: "He has played brilliantly right through the tournament and given the whole country a lift with his performances," he posted on Twitter.
It was a day when the Scot was very much a Brit, though judging by previous years, he may still become a Scot again in the headlines if tomorrow doesn't go his way. In the final, Murray faces perhaps the finest player ever to grace the green grass of Wimbledon. Even though their head-to-head record tips in Murray's favour, Federer has six Wimbledon titles. He has been in more finals than any man in the championships' long history. He has beaten Murray in their two previous Grand Slam finals, at the US and Australian Opens. And he is the bookies' favourite. But he has never played a Brit in the Wimbledon final. Then again, neither has anyone since Bunny Austin's day.
"It's nice to be in the final," said Murray as he reflected on his afternoon. And what of the prospect of winning, he was asked afterwards. "It would be very nice." Even after a day like that, Murray's not one for hyperbole.
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