There could hardly be a better fairytale story for British sport if Andy Murray were to end the country's 77-year wait for a male Wimbledon singles champion, but there is a problem. Novak Djokovic, the man on the other side of the net in this afternoon's final, likes fairytales too, especially ones with a Scottish angle.
The world No 1 yesterday recalled taking his girlfriend on holiday to Gleneagles last summer and sending Murray a photograph when they passed a signpost to the Scot's home city of Dunblane. "I gave my girlfriend a little surprise because Scotland and Britain is full of beautiful medieval castles and we are in love with that," he said. "We love those fairytale, romantic, medieval sights. I took her there for her birthday. We spent a few days there."
He added with a smile: "We didn't spend much time outdoors because it was raining all the time, which is very strange for this part of the world." Did he receive a friendly welcome? "I got a very friendly welcome – because I still hadn't played Andy [at Wimbledon] at that time."
The reception might not be so warm on any return visits if Djokovic wins his seventh Grand Slam title this afternoon. The 26-year-old Serb knows all about the British public's yearning for a Wimbledon champion, but he will not let such thoughts enter his head as he attempts to win his second title here, having won his first two years ago.
"For me it's another final," Djokovic said. "I'm just trying to focus and get ready for what's ahead of me. I'm definitely looking forward to the final. It's the biggest final in tennis that you can be a part of, so I'm very honoured to be playing in that match again. The experience of 2011 and winning that trophy can maybe help.
"I know what to expect. It's normal to expect in a way that most of the crowd will be on his side. He's a local hero. He has a big chance to win Wimbledon after a long time for this nation. People will be supporting him.
"But it's not the first time that I've been in a similar situation when I've played against local players. I know what I need to do. I know the way I need to be focused, extra focused obviously because it's the final. I'm ready for it."
If winning Wimbledon would be huge for Murray and for British sport, there should be no under-estimating the impact that Djokovic has made in his native Serbia, particularly after his triumph here two years ago. For a country of just seven million people, with an economy still struggling after the Balkan Wars, it was a rare chance to celebrate.
"Going back to Belgrade, being welcomed by 100,000 people on the main square, was something that will probably never happen again," Djokovic recalled. "It's the most beautiful experience I had as a person, as an athlete. It was unbelievable. I never, never expected that something like that could happen. It meant a lot not just to me but to the whole nation."
Djokovic said that on a personal level Wimbledon was the tournament he had always dreamed of winning. "I visualised holding this trophy when I was only six or seven years old," he said. "When I won it back in 2011 it was definitely the highlight of my career – and it still is."
The world No 1 is expecting this afternoon's final to be loud and long. "It's going to be a great atmosphere," he said. "As long as it takes for me to play, to give it all, I'm ready to go out on the court and give everything I have.
"We are both quite good returners of serve, so I guess there's going to be quite a lot of pressure on the service. Also the service games are quite crucial – to be able to hold them and try to get as many free points on the first serve as possible, which is not that easy.
"But I think in the last match we played, in the Australian Open final, we both held serve for the first two and a half hours. The first break came only late in the third set for me."
Djokovic has won two of his three meetings with Murray in Grand Slam finals – at the Australian Open in 2011 and this year – and retains good memories of his only defeat, in New York last summer.
"I think it was a great event for me as well," Djokovic said. "I played in the final of the US Open and lost in five sets. Being second is not the end of the world, especially in the major events. I just came up short.
"It was the first Grand Slam that Murray won. He deserved it because he had been fighting all these years to get to that big stage and win a major title. On the other hand, for me, it was another valuable experience that probably helped me mentally in my approach to the Australian Open final this year, where it was very close against Andy again and I managed to prevail.
This is what we also expect tomorrow, that very few points can decide the winner. That's why you need to be extra committed to every point."Reuse content