Murray shrugs off weight of history
The first British men's finalist for 74 years is preparing for his moment of destiny like any other day
Andy Murray will arrive in a Volkswagen Polo but a nation will be hoping that he leaves in a blaze of glory. The 25-year-old Scot, who sold his red Ferrari last year because he felt "a bit of a prat" when driving it, has been travelling to the All England Club each day for the past fortnight in a friend's Polo. He has no intention of changing his routines as he readies himself for the biggest match of his life in this afternoon's Wimbledon final against Roger Federer.
Murray will be the first British man to play in a Wimbledon singles final for 74 years and will be aiming to become the first home champion since Fred Perry in 1936, but the world No 4 will prepare for his moment of destiny by treating it like any other match.
He was planning to watch a film at home yesterday evening – "I normally try to watch something funny, something that is relaxing, not something that is tough to watch" – and said he planned "a decent lie-in" before getting up around 9am. "I've slept perfectly so far," he said. "I've been having porridge for breakfast on the days of my matches. I'll have a few yoghurts and get some energy drink down me."
Murray said he would try not to let the enormity of the occasion get to him. "All of the Grand Slam matches I've played have been important to me, all of them," he said. "This is my next match and I focus on it like any other one. If I look upon it as the Wimbledon final and no Brit has won it for however long and there's this many people watching, I'm going to play crap.
"I need to focus on it as a tennis match against Roger Federer, somebody I have won against before, how I'm going to win that match and what am I going to do to win it. That's really the plan."
But for the hordes of cameramen, Murray's practice session at Aorangi Park yesterday was much like any other. Oliver Golding, Britain's US Open junior champion, was his hitting partner again, while the key members of the Scot's entourage – Ivan Lendl, his coach, Dan Vallverdu, his closest friend, Andy Ireland, his physiotherapist, and Jez Green, his physical trainer – watched from the sidelines.
Murray has lost in all three of his previous Grand Slam finals without winning a set, two of them against his opponent this afternoon. "I know how tough that feeling is, so I don't want to let thinking about winning it or getting ahead of myself ruin my chances," he said. "It's exciting and it's a great position to be in, but I'm not going to get ahead of myself as I know that's counter-productive."
Nobody has felt more at home on Centre Court over the past 10 years than Federer, who has won the All England Club title six times and will be appearing in his eighth final, more than any other player. Murray, nevertheless, has also grown to love the world's most famous tennis arena.
"The more matches you play on a court you get used to the surroundings," he said. "You know the wind, where the shadows are on the court and the sun, where everybody is sitting in the box. I know how the court plays, the speed of the court, I do feel a lot more comfortable on that court than all of the other courts in the Slams."
While Murray said he would need "all the support I can get", he also expects plenty of backing for Federer, as there was in their previous two meetings on British soil, at the year-ending World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena. "I'm not expecting silence when he wins points at all. He deserves support wherever he goes, because of what he has achieved of course, but I always say that having the crowd behind you, in any sport but especially in tennis, makes a big difference."
Federer said he hoped to have some support but welcomed the chance to play "the local hero – and Andy is exactly that at Wimbledon". While it would be impossible to imagine a bigger occasion for Murray, this is also a big moment in the career of the 30-year-old Swiss.
He has not added to his record-breaking collection of 16 Grand Slam titles for two-and-a-half years, needs one more victory to match Pete Sampras's seven Wimbledon titles and will reclaim the world No 1 ranking, which he last held more than two years ago, if he wins here. The Swiss would also become only the third man (after Rod Laver and Arthur Ashe) to win the Wimbledon title in his thirties.
Federer, who appears to have made a full recovery from the back problem which forced him to leave the court for treatment during his fourth-round victory over Xavier Malisse, said: "Of course there's a lot on the line for me. I'm not denying that. I have a lot of pressure as well. I'm looking forward to that. That's what I work hard for."
Murray admitted that as a boy he did not appreciate the importance of Wimbledon, but there is no danger of that now. "This is the reason you put your body through the work-outs and training," he said. "In the last few years I have thought about it more and come to understand how important it is."
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