Emotional Murray takes final step to put history
within reach

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Federer up next in tomorrow’s showdown as Scot reveals intensity of semi-final win

Wimbledon

The words “not since Bunny Austin” can finally be erased from the lexicon of British tennis and tomorrow, who knows, the phrase “not since Fred Perry” might also be consigned to history. In beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 here yesterday Andy Murray became the first British man since Austin in 1938 to reach the Wimbledon singles final and now has the chance to become the first home champion in the men's event since Perry won the last of his three All England Club titles in 1936.

In his fourth Grand Slam final Murray will face Roger Federer, the greatest player in history and six times a champion here. The 30-year-old Swiss became the first man ever to reach eight Wimbledon finals by beating Novak Djokovic, the world No 1 and defending champion.

Murray has lost in the semi-finals here for the past three years in succession, but the 25-year-old Scot always retained the belief that he could end the British tale of woe ever since Austin reached the final 74 years ago. British men have reached the semi-finals on 12 subsequent occasions, but until yesterday they had always fallen at the penultimate hurdle.

The last occasion when a British player of either sex won the singles title was when Virginia Wade triumphed in the Queen's Silver Jubilee year in 1977. With delicious timing, Murray will now attempt to win the title in the monarch's Diamond Jubilee year.

While there has been a large royal presence here over the last fortnight – the Duke of York was in the Royal Box yesterday – the Queen herself has shown little interest in the sport over the years, her Wimbledon visit in 2010 having been her first since Wade won the title. "I'm not sure if she'll be here on Sunday, but it would be nice," Murray said.

Having been close to tears on the court after yesterday's victory, Murray was asked how much he had felt the weight of history on his shoulders in his semi-final. "You don't really think about it that much, but I think subconsciously at the end of the match it was obviously very emotional," he said.

"I haven't really been like that before in a semi-final match, so obviously it meant something to me. It was very, very important. There is obviously a lot of pressure and stress around this time of year. I don't feel it when I'm on the practice court or when I'm just kind of walking around – I try not to think about that stuff – but in the back of my mind it's obviously there."

He added: "It's not every day you're through to the final of a Grand Slam, and also Wimbledon, so I need to make sure I enjoy tonight, and then tomorrow get back on the practice court and make sure I hit enough balls and get focused for Sunday."

However, Murray said it would not be time to celebrate. "I heard there's a cocktail party here this evening which I've been invited to, but I probably won't be participating in it," he said with a smile.

Murray paid tribute to his coach, Ivan Lendl, saying that the eight-times Grand Slam title winner had helped him to control his emotions on the court and keep him focused on the next challenge.

"I spoke to Ivan after the match," Murray said. "It was: 'Good job. You did really well. What time do you want to practise tomorrow?' That's it. There's no time for anything else."

Asked how he had managed to keep his emotions in check, Murray said: "It's just difficult. There's obviously a lot of pressure when you're on the court. There's a lot of stress, but you need to just try and focus on the next point and not think about what's happened in the past. It is hard sometimes, but it makes a big difference when you do."

When he came off court Murray was asked if he could imagine what the tension had been like for his parents, who were watching with the rest of his entourage. "I've no idea," Murray said. "I'm not really that bothered. It's a lot harder for me, that's for sure."

While Murray has won eight of his 15 matches against Federer, the Swiss has won all six times they have met in finals, including the 2008 US Open and the 2010 Australian Open. Murray did not win a set in either match, or in his other Grand Slam final in Melbourne last year. They have met only once since the end of 2010, Federer winning in the final in Dubai four months ago.

"It's a great challenge, one where I'm probably not expected to win the match, but one that if I play well I'm capable of winning," Murray said. "But if you look at his record here over the past 10 years or so, it's been incredible. I guess the pressure that I would be feeling if it was against somebody else would be different, but there will be less on me on Sunday because of who he is."

When asked whether Federer might be a fading force – the world No 3 has not won a Grand Slam title for two and a half years – Murray said: "He's lost some close matches in the Slams the last few years, but he had match points against Novak at the US Open two years in a row. He has lost some very close matches. If you look at the way he played today, you can't say he's past it or because he's 30 he's playing worse tennis. I just think the players around have got better.'

Murray said it would make a big difference if he could get off to a good start. "On grass more than the other surfaces, matches can change quite quickly," he said. "Most of the sets are normally decided on one or two break points or a couple of mistakes here or there, or a couple of great shots. The sets aren't normally 6-1, 6-2 sets. Even if I lose the first set or the second set, you can always come back."

Federer has made some critical comments about Murray's game in the past, saying he could be too defensive, but the Swiss acknowledged the Scot's improvement over the years. "He's only going to get better as time goes by – that's what he's been proving," Federer said. "In whatever country I am I like to play the local hero and Andy is exactly that here at Wimbledon."

At Murray's post-match press conference an Italian journalist asked the Scot if he thought that Perry would send him his blessing tomorrow. "He's not alive though, I don't understand," Murray said to laughter from the packed interview room. "From up there he'll send you a benediction," the journalist suggested. "Yeah, well, I hope so," Murray said.

SW19 in figures

27 Thousand and 35 days since a British man made the final

134 The speed, in mph, of Murray's fastest serve yesterday

4 Will be his fourth Grand Slam final

28 Break points won by Murray this tournament

Final showdowns: Murray's record

2008 US Open: Lost 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 to Roger Federer

Became the first Briton since Greg Rusedski in 1997 to reach a Grand Slam final. Murray had his serve broken seven times in the match, only breaking back once.

2010 Australian Open: Lost 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 to Roger Federer

Was 5-2 up at one point in the third set, and had five set points in the tie-break. Like Federer a year earlier, emotions got the better of him in his post-match speech, with the Scot welling up as he addressed the crowd.

2011 Australian Open: Lost 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to Novak Djokovic

Murray reached the final for the second successive year, but then Djokovic won seven consecutive games across sets one and two, and wrapped things up in the third, leaving Murray without a single set from all three of the Grand Slam finals he has played in.

Murray's record in all finals against Federer:

2005 Thailand Open LOST

2008 US Open LOST

2010 Australian Open LOST

2010 ATP World Tour, Canada WON

2010 ATP World Tour, Shanghai WON

2012 Dubai Championships LOST

In total, Murray has played Federer 15 times, winning eight and losing seven

James Hunt

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