The dream moved closer to reality here last night as Andy Murray took another step towards becoming the first male British winner of the world's most famous tennis tournament for 73 years. Murray swept aside Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero in straight sets and will play Andy Roddick in tomorrow's semi-finals, the winner to meet Roger Federer or Tommy Haas in Sunday's final.
One hundred years after the birth of Fred Perry, the last British man to be champion here, Murray is just two wins away from realising a lifetime's ambition. One more victory would see him become the first Briton since Bunny Austin in 1938 to play in the Wimbledon final and he is already only the fourth home player since the war to reach the last four, following Mike Sangster in 1961, Roger Taylor in 1970 and 1973 and Tim Henman on four occasions between 1998 and 2002.
In beating Ferrero 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 in less than two hours, Murray maintained his record of going one round better every time he has played here. His previous best performance was to reach the quarter-finals last year, when he lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets. He has already played in one Grand Slam final, having lost to Federer at last year's US Open, and has reached the last eight or better of four of his last five Grand Slam tournaments.
"Since Wimbledon last year, my consistency has been very, very good," he said. "Bar one very poor match at the Olympics, I've not really lost any early matches, not lost to too many guys that I should have won against, and performed well in the Slams."
Murray needed five sets and nearly four hours to dispose of Stanislas Wawrinka in his previous match but finished off Ferrero in an hour and 43 minutes. "If I had had another five- setter it would have been tough to recover from back-to-back five-set matches," Murray said. "But I was only on for about an hour and 45 minutes today, so it's not going to take anything out of me physically. I should be 100 per cent for the next match."
That will be against Roddick, who needed five sets to beat Lleyton Hewitt. Murray has beaten the American in six of their eight matches, including their only meeting at a Grand Slam event, in the third round here in 2006. "Roddick is one of the best servers in the game, so I'll need to return very well," Murray said. "Roddick's made two finals here, has been No 1 in the world and is a Grand Slam champion. It will be a tough match."
Asked whether he felt he might have already peaked here, Murray said: "We'll have to wait and see. You don't know until you get to that stage. If you have to raise your level or if you're way behind in a match or really tight situations, you never know. But I served well in all of the matches where I've needed to, bar the Wawrinka one. If I can keep serving like that I've got a good chance against anyone."
If Murray wins the tournament he will replace Federer as world No 2 and move within five ranking points of Nadal, the No 1. Federer, who will eclipse Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam titles if he wins, beat Ivo Karlovic in straight sets yesterday, while Haas sprang one of the surprises of the tournament by knocking out Novak Djokovic, the world No 4.
Having received messages of support from the Queen and Sean Connery, Murray said the only one this week had been a hand-written note from Sir Cliff Richard. "It just said: 'Well done for winning the other night, really enjoyed the match and good luck,'" Murray said. "I don't have any of his records, but my mum does."
Andy Murray v Andy Roddick
Roger Federer v Tommy Haas
To be played tomorrow