Andy Murray will become the first British man for 72 years to reach a Wimbledon singles final if he beats Rafael Nadal on Centre Court here this afternoon, but matching the performance of Henry "Bunny" Austin in 1938 will not be enough for the 23-year-old Scot.
"It would mean a lot, but you want to be winning the tournament, not losing in the final," Murray said. "That wouldn't be the nicest feeling. That was my goal coming into the tournament – to try to win it – and I'm obviously a lot closer than I was 10 days ago, but I'm going to have to play the best tennis of my life to win the event now. I'm two matches away, six sets away, and that's what I've got to look to do."
For the moment, nevertheless, Murray will have to focus on ending a nine-match losing streak by British men in the semi-finals here. Mike Sangster, Roger Taylor (on three occasions), Tim Henman (on four occasions) and Murray himself (last year) have all fallen at the penultimate hurdle since Austin became the last home player to reach the final. Austin lost to Donald Budge, two years after Fred Perry, the last British man to win here, beat Gottfried von Cramm to claim his third successive Wimbledon title.
The best home player for three-quarters of a century has grown used to jibes about Britain's long wait for a champion. Before beating Murray in this year's Australian Open final Roger Federer joked that it was "150,000" years since a Briton had won a Grand Slam title (Perry was the last with his US Open victory in the same year as his last Wimbledon triumph).
"It's obviously been a huge, huge wait for us, and it's still obviously going on now," Murray said. "The crowd obviously would love to see a British player win Wimbledon. It's something that's kind of joked about amongst players and people within tennis about how long it's been since someone British has won at Wimbledon."
Austin's reward for reaching the 1938 final was a £10 gift voucher from the jewellers Mappin and Webb. Murray would receive £500,000 – which would be doubled if he went on to beat the winner of today's first semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych – but the 23-year-old Scot is not motivated by money.
"If you ask all the people who win Wimbledon, when you're serving for the match, it's about the history and the prestige of winning Wimbledon, not the amount of money you could win," he said. "It's obviously great, but it's just so far from being the most important thing when you're out there."
He added: "If you said to Roger, 'You can keep your six Wimbledon titles but you have to give your prize-money back', I'm sure he would sign up for that every day of the week."
What did Murray think of the prospect of giving a late kick-start to the British sporting summer by winning here? "I love sport," he said. "Not just tennis. I love watching Formula One, boxing, football. That's my life."When I'm not playing tennis, I'm either playing other sports or watching other sports. To be part of it is great, and if I could do my bit to make it as positive as possible after the World Cup, that would be great, but I've got a tough match coming up."
Murray and Nadal both had gentle workouts here yesterday, the Scot on a practice court at Aorangi Park and the Spaniard on an outside court. Nadal, who has had one or two twinges from his troublesome knees over the last fortnight, did not overexert himself, although he insists he is "fine".
The world No 1's practice session was overseen by Toni Nadal, his uncle and coach, who said the Spanish camp were well aware of the size of the task they were facing. "Andy Murray is one of the most talented players on the tour," Toni said. "He has all the shots and incredible hands. He can hit any shot you can think of."
Nadal has won seven of his 10 meetings with Murray, though the Scot won their last match, in the quarter-finals of this year's Australian Open. "The last time they met Rafa played OK, but he lost all the important points," Toni said.