Andy Murray homes in on a Wimbledon final Britain has longed for

'Selfish' Scot stays focused on Tsonga threat but can end country's 74-year wait

Wimbledon

It has been 74 years since a British man reached the Wimbledon final and 76 years since a British man lifted the ultimate prize, but Andy Murray will not let such thoughts cloud his mind as he prepares to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-finals here this afternoon.

"When I think about Wimbledon and how long it has been since a British winner it is obviously surprising, a bit shocking too," Murray said. "But I'm very selfish when I think about Wimbledon. I really try to make sure that I want to do it for myself."

In the Open era only two other British men have reached Grand Slam singles finals – John Lloyd lost in Melbourne in 1977 and Greg Rusedski in New York 1997 – but Murray is one win away from playing in his fourth, having lost at the US Open in 2008 and at the Australian Open in 2010 and last year. Fred Perry was the last British man to win a Grand Slam singles title (the US Open in 1936) and the last British man to win Wimbledon (1936). Bunny Austin was the last to reach the Wimbledon final (1938).

Although Murray has not been thinking over the last fortnight about Britain's long wait for a champion – "If I did it might not be beneficial, especially at this stage of the tournament" – he has at other times of the year, especially when visiting an empty Centre Court during a break from practice sessions.

"When I sit out there on the court by myself, I'm thinking about the history and the matches that have been played there, so that I understand how important it is and so I know that when I come here I don't want to waste the chance by playing a stupid match or not acting right or not preparing properly," he said.

Today Murray will hope to feed off the support of his home crowd. "When you get out on the court, that is where you get all the benefits and that is where all the positives are," he said. "That's where the positives of home support come in. The build-up is hard and all the other things that go with it make it tough, but when you're on the court that's where you see all the positives."

Murray takes encouragement from his form here after victories over Nikolay Davydenko, Ivo Karlovic, Marcos Baghdatis, Marin Cilic and David Ferrer.

"This year has been one of my toughest draws, so I've had to play some of my best tennis to get here," he said. "At the Australian Open this year I didn't have to play so well because the guys I played against were shattered, but this time it hasn't been like that. It's been very tough. There have been tough matches against different types of players as well. My game should be in a good place going into the semis."

Murray lost to Rafael Nadal at this stage in 2010 and last year. Today represents his best chance of reaching the final since his first semi, in 2009 against Andy Roddick, who went on to push Roger Federer in the final.

Tsonga has reached the semi-finals for a second year in succession – he lost to Novak Djokovic last year after beating Federer – and has enjoyed the best run of his career in the last 12 months. The 27-year-old Frenchman has worked without a coach since last April but in that period he has reached six finals, winning three.

The world No 6, nevertheless, usually brings the best out of Murray. He has lost five of his six matches against the Scot, including the last four. A fine grass-court player, Tsonga has a big serve and likes to come forward, while Murray has one of the best returns of serve and likes to have a target to attack at the net.

"Andy's one of the players I don't like to play because he's returning really well and he can play some really good passing shots," Tsonga said. "He's really quick. He's on the ball all the time, so he's tough for me."

While Tsonga believes the pressure is always great on Murray as Britain's only major contender – France has four men in the world's top 20 – he said that he always enjoyed playing against a home favourite.

"I remember at the US Open I played against Mardy Fish in a tight match," he said. "It wasn't easy, but I won."

Guy Forget, until recently Tsonga's Davis Cup captain, thinks there is little to choose between the two but says Murray has been more consistent.

"Jo's serve has always been there and can save him, particularly on grass," Forget said. "I don't think he's tired at all. Physically he's fine and mentally Jo likes these kind of matches. That's what makes him different from the other French players, I guess. That is why he is so high in the rankings, because he lives for these kind of matches. He is not afraid of going out on the court, not afraid of what will happen if he loses."

 

Get Adobe Flash player


Murray v Tsonga: Key past matches

2008: Australian Open 1st round: Tsonga won 7-5, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6

Murray had begun the year by winning the title in Doha but Tsonga caught him cold in Melbourne. The Frenchman went for his shots and was particularly punishing on Murray's second serve. It was the Scot's only defeat in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament since 2006 and his sole loss to Tsonga.

2010: Wimbledon Quarter-final: Murray won 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2

Tsonga, serving superbly and hitting his forehand with great power, became the first player to take a set off Murray at the tournament before being worn down by the all-round excellence of the Scot's game. As the match wore on Murray increasingly turned heroic defence into thrilling attack.

2011 Queen's Final: Murray won 3-6, 7-6, 6-4

Attacking the net and going for big shots, Tsonga dominated early on and was within five points of a win when Murray served at 5-5 and 30-40. Murray then took charge, his confidence highlighted by a through-the-legs half-volley that took him to 5-3 in the final set.

Overall It is 5-1 to Murray and 2-0 to Murray on grass.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible