ANDY MURRAY may have ended one of the longest waits in British sport by reaching the Wimbledon final, but he insists it’s not yet time to celebrate.
Murray defeated French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 yesterday to move into his fourth grand slam title match and become the first home finalist in the men’s singles at the All England Club since Bunny Austin in 1938.
But if the 25-year-old is to end Fred Perry’s 76-year reign as the last British winner of the men’s title, then he will have to defeat Roger Federer, who tomorrow will aim to equal Pete Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon titles.
The congratulations flowed in, but for Murray and coach Ivan Lendl, the focus is on Federer.
And Murray explained, with a smile, that he had to decline an invitation to Wimbledon’s cocktail party last night.
He said: “It’s not the end of the tournament yet. The time for all of that stuff comes when I’m done.
“I spoke to Ivan after the match. It was, ‘Good job. You did really well. What time do you want to practise tomorrow?’. That’s it. There’s no time for anything else.
“I’m not going to go out and celebrate, although I heard there’s a cocktail party here which I’ve been invited to, but I probably won’t be participating in that.”
Blocking out the hype around his campaigns at Wimbledon has become a key Murray strategy, but he admitted after beating David Ferrer in the quarter-finals that the pressure does take its toll.
He was full of emotion at the end of the match today, letting the tears flow and looking skywards as his achievement sunk in.
He said of carrying the weight of history on his shoulders: “You don’t really think about it that much, but 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 important.”
Facing Federer in a grand slam final is not a new experience for Murray, who lost to the Swiss at the US Open in 2008 and the Australian Open in 2010, while his other final came in Melbourne last year when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic.
Murray does lead their head-to-head 8-7 but Federer has a phenomenal record at Wimbledon. Murray, though, feels facing arguably the sport’s greatest ever player will take the pressure off a bit.
He said: “It’s a great challenge, one where I’m probably not expected to win the match, but one that, if I play well, I’m capable of winning.
“If you look at his record here, it’s been incredible. So the pressure that I would be feeling, if it was against somebody else, I guess it would be different.
“There will be less on me on Sunday because of who he is.”
The last home winner of a Wimbledon singles title was Virginia Wade in 1977, and those looking for good omens will take heart from a royal link.
Wade’s victory came in the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, with the monarch presenting the Venus Rosewater dish to the champion, and there has already been talk that the Queen might attend the final on Sunday in the year of her Diamond Jubilee.
The Queen last visited the All England Club two years ago, watching Murray win a second-round match against Jarkko Nieminen, while in the Royal Box for his quarter-final victory over Ferrer this year were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Murray said: “William and Kate were here the other day. You have guys like Rod Laver and Andre Agassi here. The Queen was here a few years ago, too.
“There’s a lot of pressure, but it’s obviously a privilege to play in front of those sort of people. I’m not sure if she’ll be here on Sunday, but it would be nice.”
For two sets yesterday, Murray played some of his best tennis, looking confident and striking winners almost at will.
Tsonga, who was also aiming to reach a first Wimbledon final, barely had a sniff but the momentum shifted at the start of the third set when Murray played one sloppy game and the Frenchman took advantage.
The key to the match was the fourth set, which contained enough drama and twists and turns for a whole match.
Murray moved ahead 3-1 but Tsonga responded, the powerful 27-year-old playing some inspired tennis. Murray had chances to move 5-3 ahead but he could not take them and Tsonga then let an opportunity slip through his fingers with some wild shots when a break looked there for the taking.
Murray dug in and finally clinched victory when a forehand return caught the edge of the line, although he had to wait for HawkEye to confirm his belief that the ball was in.
The Scot admitted he had let thoughts of the final slip into his mind at the start of the third set.
He said: “The first couple of sets were pretty smooth. Then after that it was tough. It was a tough match.
“In terms of focus, that was probably one of the hardest matches. Because when you do win a couple of sets comfortably and you’re getting close to the final of a slam, it’s really hard sometimes just to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of yourself.
“I did throw a game away a little bit at the beginning of the third set and it cost me a bit.”
It didn’t cost him dearly though, and tomorrow at 2pm he’ll stride on to centre court knowing he’s one match away from winning the Wimbledon crown he and the British public so dearly want him to claim. Then, of course, the cocktails can flow.