Interesting fact – Apart from Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray is the only active player with a winning record against Roger Federer. Still, heading into his first Wimbledon final, there’s no doubt that Federer, five years Murray’s elder, is the favorite heading into this final.
It’s pretty simple to see why – The burden of proof. Andy Murray may have the 8-7 edge of Federer in their meeting, but he’s never beaten him in a Grand Slam match. They’ve met in two Grand Slam finals – first at the 2008 US Open, Federer winning comfortably in straight sets. Their second Grand Slam clash came in 2010, at the Australian Open. That was Federer’s last major title, beating Murray in three sets, although it was considerably harder.
Andy Murray had the same kind of year he always has. A pretty good Australian Open, losing to Novak Djokovic in the semifinal, followed by a terrible period except for another final in Miami and another loss to Djokovic. Then came the Roland Garros, which was reasonably decent, losing in the quarterfinals to David Ferrer.
Then came Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal getting stunned so early on changed everything, and Murray, for the first time in years, saw a clear path to the final. David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were in the way, but Murray, with a clear head and without any wars against himself, is the better player, channeling the ‘home’ support to play some of his best tennis.
I’ve played Roger in finals before and need to learn from them. He’s playing great tennis and I’m very excited. It was difficult out there, there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of stress. But you need to think about the next point and not what has happened in the past. I have just got to try and keep it together for the final.
Murray was in tears after beating Tsonga in four sets. He was in tears after his loss to Federer in the 2010 Australian Open final. I think like subconsciously at the end of the match it was obviously very emotional. I haven’t really been like that before in a semi-final match, so obviously it meant something to me and it was very, very important. think I need to make sure I enjoy myself and enjoy the win. You know, it’s not every day you’re through to the final of a Grand Slam, and also being at Wimbledon.
For Federer, it’s a record breaking 8th time at the Wimbledon final, more than anyone else in the Open era. Last time it was in 2009, an epic final against Andy Roddick, turned into one long aces battle due to the Wimbledon fifth set tiebreak rules. Federer failed to make it past the quarterfinal on the grass since that win, until this year.
He didn’t look good on his way to face Novak Djokovic. But sometimes, things click. Federer played aggressive and attacking tennis from the first point in the semifinal on Friday. He usually does, but he just couldn’t make a mistake, not in the first set, while Djokovic simply couldn’t create and get into his rhythm. He managed to settle for one set, in the second, but couldn’t find a comfort spot or work through his serve for the rest of the match. The better player lost.
But that’s Federer for you. When he’s at his best and the dip in his form inside the match is quite short, it’s hard seeing anyone touching him. Especially on grass. Federer’s serve was fantastic, and he kept getting the shot he wanted before Djokovic had his chance to plant his two feet somewhere dominating along the baseline. Against Murray, who’s a player who doesn’t often try to be the aggressor,Federer is happy to face the crowd favorite. A rarity for Federer to be on the other side.
I always say in whatever country I’m in, I like to play the local hero. Andy is exactly that here. So I wanted this to come along, even though I like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. It’s a big match for me and I hope I can keep my nerves. I’m sure that if I can, I have a chance to win and become world No. 1 again. But I’m aware the tournament is not over yet. I didn’t break down crying or think, ‘I’ve achieved everything I ever wanted’.
Federer, after a fantastic Year-End tournament in London 7 months ago, set a goal for himself heading into 2012. Return to the number one spot in the world. He felt that Nadal was vulnerable, that Djokovic won’t be his 2011 self. A bit of luck along the way, yes. But even though it’s been a while since Federer’s been on top of the rankings, it seems so normal and natural to see his name there.