Andy Murray said that he was confident of beating world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the final here on Sunday to end Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s singles champion.
For the second year in succession, he stands on the brink of history. Twelve months after becoming the first British man for 74 years to play in the singles final here, the 26-year-old Scot will have the chance to go one better in his second Wimbledon final in succession. He said: I’ve only played him on grass here at the Olympics so I’ll take that into Sunday.”
Last August, Murray defeated Djokovic in the London 2012 semi-final in straight sets before going on to claim gold on Centre Court.
Seventy-seven years after Fred Perry became the last British man to lift the All England Club’s Challenge Cup, Murray is again one win away from the greatest moment of his life. He becomes only the third British man – after Perry and Bunny Austin – to reach more than one Wimbledon singles final since the Challenge Round (where the defending champion had to play only one match) was abolished in 1922.
After a Wimbledon in which so many big names have fallen by the wayside, the tournament will reach a climax with a meeting between the world’s two best players. Djokovic, the world No 1, beat Juan Martin del Potro yesterday in the longest semi-final in Wimbledon history, the Serb winning 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 after four hours and 43 minutes of the highest drama, before Murray, the world No 2, secured his place in the final by beating Jerzy Janowicz 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, despite a controversial 28-minute delay while the roof was closed because of bad light.
In spite of Rafael Nadal’s springtime burst of glory on the clay courts, the rivalry between Djokovic and Murray has become the sport’s headline act over the last year.
The Serb and the Briton have reached the final of the last three Grand Slam tournaments in which both men have played, Murray having pulled out of the recent French Open because he was suffering from a recurring back problem.
Their record in Grand Slam finals currently stands at one win apiece, Murray having won in New York last summer to claim his maiden Grand Slam title before Djokovic exacted his revenge in Melbourne at the start of this year.
The two men have known each other since they met at an under-12s tournament in the south of France, when Murray won their first encounter. Both went abroad as teenagers to further their careers, the Scot to the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona and the Serb to Niki Pilic’s establishment in Munich.
Murray was the more successful junior (Djokovic reached the Australian Open boys’ final, Murray won the US Open title), while Djokovic has often led the way at senior level. Djokovic broke into the world’s top 100 in July 2005, three months earlier than Murray, and made it to the top 10 in March 2007, one month ahead of the Scot.
Although Murray was the first to win a tour title, five months before Djokovic in February 2006, the Serb was the first by 17 months to wear a Masters Series crown, in March 2007. Most importantly of all, Djokovic was the first to reach a Grand Slam final, at the US Open in 2007.
While Djokovic is the world No 1, Murray is currently at his highest place in the world rankings at No 2. With more than $50m (£33.6m) of prize-money in the bank, the Serb has won almost twice as much as the Scot. He has won six more titles – 33 to Murray’s 27 – but his earnings have been significantly boosted by his winnings from his Grand Slam triumphs.
While Murray said earlier in the week that Djokovic, who won the title here two years ago, would be the favourite to claim the trophy again, there are plenty of reasons for the Scot to go into tomorrow’s match full of confidence.
As well as beating Djokovic in straight sets here in last year’s Olympic semi-finals, he is currently on a 17-match winning streak on grass. Murray’s only defeat in his last 24 matches on the surface was to Roger Federer in last year’s final, a defeat which he avenged four weeks later by beating the Swiss in the Olympic gold medal match.
The latter victory seemed to be a turning point in the Scot’s career as he went on to realise his lifetime’s ambition by winning his first Grand Slam title in New York.
Djokovic, nevertheless, has won 11 of his 18 meetings with Murray, including the most recent in Melbourne earlier this year. Djokovic won their first four matches as senior players, but since then their record is tied at seven wins apiece.
Murray’s record of consistency in the last five years at the All England Club is better than that of any other player. The Scot has reached the semi-finals five years in a row and has now made it through to his second successive final. It is not only Wimbledon where Murray has excelled. The Scot has now made the finals of the last four Grand Slam tournaments in which he has played.
Murray has reached seven Grand Slam finals in total, though Djokovic will be playing in his 11th tomorrow. The Serb also has a much better success rate: while he has gone on to win six Grand Slam titles, last year’s US Open remains Murray’s lone victory.
Djokovic will have to recover from his gruelling semi-final before Sunday’s finale, but the Serb did not see that as a problem.
“The positive thing in a way is that we played first match today,” he said after his victory over Del Potro. “I still have time. Physically, even though we played five sets and there were a lot of falls, sliding, running and long exchanges, I still feel I’m OK.
“Of course, I’ll be a little bit more tired than I was after my previous matches, but this is not the first time that I’ve been in this situation. I’ve actually been in worse situations before, like at the 2012 Australian Open, where I managed to recover and play another six hours to win the final.”
Tomorrow’s big match: Djokovic v Murray
N Djokovic/ A Murray
Serbian Nationality British
26 Age 26
Monte Carlo, Monaco Residence London, England
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 2in Height 6ft 3in
2003 Turned pro 2005
1 World ranking 2
37 Career titles 27
$50.20m Prize-money $27.33m
38-7 Wimbledon record (W-L)36-7
Winner (2011) Wimbledon best Final (2012, 2013)
11 Head-to-head wins 7
Routes to final: Djokovic v Murray
* 1 N Djokovic (Serb)
1st rd F Mayer (Ger) 6-3 7-5 6-4
2nd rd B Reynolds (US) 7-6 6-3 6-1
3rd rd: 28 J Chardy (Fr) 6-3 6-2 6-2
4th rd: 13 T Haas (Ger) 6-1 6-4 7-6
QF: 7 T Berdych (Cz Rep) 7-6 6-4 6-3
SF: 8 J M del Potro (Arg) 7-5 4-6 7-6 6-7 6-3
* 2 A Murray (GB)
1st rd B Becker (Ger) 6-4 6-3 6-2
2nd rd Y h-Lu (Taiw) 6-3 6-3 7-5
3rd rd: 32 T Robredo (Sp) 6-2 6-4 7-5
4th rd: 20 M Youzhny (Rus) 6-4 7-6(5) 6-1
QF F Verdasco (Sp) 4-6 3-6 6-1 6-4 7-5
SF 24 J Janowicz (Pol) 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 6-3