OK, let's state the obvious first. This is a huge match for Andy Murray and he could not be facing a tougher opponent than Rafa Nadal, a dream of a tennis player. Boy has the Spaniard got it all. He is unique.
But it's not just the opponent on the other side of the net that Murray has to deal with today. There's the expectation and, man, does Wimbledon, heck Britain, expect. It's been a long wait, hasn't it, guys?
The good thing for Murray is that watching him over the past two weeks, actually let's throw the French Open into the hat as well, he's been mighty impressive. And that's not only for the way he has been hitting the ball, it's been the way he's walked the walk too. This is a guy heading towards his peak.
Murray is a character. There are times he reminds me of Andre Agassi, noticeably his ball-striking and the anticipation he shows in getting to the right place at just the right time. But even Andre would have had his hands full with Nadal.
Sometimes I watch Nadal and I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. His consistency in tournament after tournament is staggering and allied to that huge ability is his self-belief. Holy cow! He believes in himself to a degree that means every last inch of the court is his. He breaks all the rules of gravity and at the same time he has a certain rare gift you cannot teach. It is called passion, baby!
Let's line these guys up. Nadal hits his forehand with a ton of spin. Watch how when he runs wide he gets his racket head on the outside of the ball and delivers it down the line for a winner. Murray's forehand is steady. He will get most balls back and recently has added more of a killer approach. He too hits with plenty of spin.
While Nadal plays left-handed, he is in life a righty and this adds an edge to his game. This extra strength and coordination in his right hand makes his backhand lethal and allows him to hit high balls while off balance. Murray has one of the best backhands in the game. His balance and body control enable him to do just about anything he wants from this wing.
When it comes to the serve, Nadal has a tremendous advantage being a lefty. He can take his opponent out wide when serving to the advantage side and he can serve into his opponent's body when serving to the deuce court, making it difficult for righties to open up their big forehands. Murray's serve is much improved and it brings him more free points and defensive returns than it used to.
A feature of the modern game is movement and nobody gets around better than Nadal. Lightning. It all starts with him feeling and knowing he can get to any ball. At the same time, Murray is an excellent mover and is up there with the top guys.
Nadal has a good sense of position. He likes to stand a few feet beyond the baseline but is quick to come in and with his movement he can get around. Now here is an area Murray needs to improve. I've said it regularly over the last couple of weeks – you cannot win a Grand Slam from way behind the baseline. Murray has a tendency to stand too far back and, even though he gets to every ball, his opponent can retrieve his returns. It is getting better and his attacking game is much more obvious these days. He will not win this match from the baseline and has to go at Nadal, surprise the guy. Force the issue, Andy – go on.
Nadal is one of the best, though, and that is why when you have to pick a winner I have to come down on his side – just. I tell you, this is not a match to miss. Hell, if I were you I would call in sick just to make sure you catch it.
Today's big match
Andy Murray v Rafael Nadal
How they match up:
British Nationality Spanish
24 Age 25
London Residence Mallorca
Right-handed Plays Left-handed
6ft 3in Height 6ft 1in
4 World ranking 1
17 Career titles 46
$16m Career prize-money $41.8m
W28 L5 Wimbledon record W34 L4
(3) Wimbledon best Winner (2)
W4 L11 Head-to-head W11 L4
7-4 Odds 4-9
Bollettieri's prediction: Nadal in five
Coaching Report: I am proud of what both my academy women achieved
Maria Sharapova v Sabine Lisicki
She's cool. That's what I said about Maria Sharapova before yesterday's semi-final against Sabine Lisicki: she's always cool. And that's what we saw on Centre yesterday. The head of Sharapova got her through to tomorrow's final.
Even when she saw those first three games slip by with her serve all over the place, what could we see? Cool, man. You looked at her and you did not see a flicker of concern. She kept her head and that helped the form come back.
Once she got going there was no stopping her. But let's pay credit to Lisicki. It wasn't her day – a first taste of such a huge stage and she did not have enough to stop the Sharapova steamroller yesterday. Look what she's accomplished over the last two weeks from being given a wildcard – well done, girl. We are all proud of you back here at the academy.
The thing about Maria is that when she gets on that big stage, that is when she is at her most dangerous. She is a tough opponent to beat mentally. She is switched on. When her serve was not working she took on Lisicki with her groundstrokes. Now this is an area in which Lisicki would expect to come out on top against most opponents, but not yesterday. No, sir.
Bang, bang went Sharapova's forehand and back went Lisicki she was forced on to the defensive and that is not her natural game. When she got Lisicki on to that back foot it meant Sharapova was almost unbeatable.
In the rallies, you would have expected Lisicki to prosper the longer they went on – that is what has happened in the earlier stages of the tournament and against some pretty big name players, too. Li Na could not deal with Lisicki's power and she was fresh out of Paris with a Grand Slam trophy tucked away in her kit bag. But Sabine never got into that rhythm yesterday and there were few signs of that lovely drop shot that has given me such joy over the course of the tournament. And that was because Maria was sure as hell not going to let her get into the match like that.
Sharapova will take some stopping now. I have seen it from the first time she came to my academy all those years ago – when she gets on a roll, this is one hell of a tennis player and Petra Kvitova will have to be at her absolute energetic best to cause her any problems tomorrow.
Mr B's A-Zee
U is for US Open. Now I love Wimbledon – absolutely love everything about it, from the tradition to the grass and the ballboys and girls, but here's a confession: if you were to push me, I would have to admit my absolute favourite tournament is the US Open.
V is for volley. Man, do I love a volley and there is no better place for it than Wimbledon. In this day of baseliners it is becoming a rare thing but never forget what Becker, Sampras, McEnroe and Co achieved here with that shot.
Win a week at my academy
Want a week's tennis holiday at my IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida? Included in the prize is five days' top-class tuition. The prize can be for an adult wanting to shape up his or her game, or for a child who wants to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, among other players who went from being kids under my tuition to No 1 in the world.
What you have to do is answer this question: How long will Andy Murray's match last today – the total number of minutes? Send me your answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org and the correct one will win a signed hat or T-shirt.
I'll be putting a question every day and all the winners will go into the hat for the big prize to be drawn at the end of the fortnight: a week at the IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy. Wednesday's winner was Colin Swinfin.
Coaching tip of the day
The game is full of baseliners today so how do you get the better of them? To start with, serve at their body to try to tie up your opponent. Run like hell – the more you return, the harder they will try to hit it, so errors can creep in. Don't try and match them for power, instead try things like hitting deep with plenty of topspin.Reuse content