Andy Murray Advances to the Wimbledon Final, Ending Britain’s 74-Year Absence

  • Share
  • Read Later
Anja Niedringhaus / AP

Andy Murray of Britain reacts after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during a semifinals match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, England, Friday, July 6, 2012.

Andy Murray has advanced to the men’s final at Wimbledon, defeating France‘s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 during Friday’s semi-finals. The victory makes the 25-year old the first British man to contest a Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938. He’ll face the Swiss Roger Federer on Sunday, who has got the better of Murray in two previous Grand Slam finals, each time in straight sets.

Murray, who has lost in the semi-finals of the tournament for the past three years, teared up and, in keeping with his post-match celebrations over these past two weeks, pointed to the sky after securing match point. He was still reeling during his press conference. “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,” he said. “And, yeah, there is obviously a lot of pressure and stress around this time of year. I don’t, like, feel it like when I’m on the practice court on when I’m just kind of walking around. I try not to think about that stuff.”

(MORE: Rafael Nadal Crashes out of Wimbledon to Unheralded Czech)

Entering his semi-final, Murray had already beaten France’s Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in five of their previous six meetings. Early on it looked like he’d keep the streak going without incident. Murray broke Tsonga’s service game to open the match, which laid the groundwork for him to bulldoze through the first two sets. “The beginning was tough because he played well,” Tsonga said afterwards. “I mean, he didn’t give me one chance, you know, one chance to go to the net. He didn’t miss one serve. He was really, really good.”

In the third set Tsonga finally woke up — and not just because Murray blasted a shot directly at his groin. Tsonga battled back to take the set 6-3. Suddenly it seemed like the Frenchman might reprise his 2008 victory over Murray at the Australian Open, where he reached his first and only Grand Slam final. But it proved to be Murray’s day, even if HawkEye had to confirm match point. Murray’s return of serve on the point landed in a patch of sunlight, and was initially called out. Cue Murray’s successful challenge —and the roar of 15,000 unabashed home town supporters.

Celebrities and politicians were quick to congratulate Murray. Prime Minister David Cameron praised “our first home-grown men’s finalist at Wimbledon for over 70 years,” and mentioned that “I’ll be watching the final on Sunday and, like the rest of the country, will be getting right behind Andy Murray.” (No pressure then). And comedian Stephen Fry tweeted that Murray’s results matter more than the impression of misery he tends to give off on court. “Oh I’m all in pieces,” Fry wrote on Twitter. “You beauty, Andy. I don’t mind if you aren’t the most cheerful person in tennis. If that’s what it takes [to] go and win.” London Mayor Boris Johnson pointed out that the last time a Brit won Wimbledon was when the Queen was celebrating another Jubilee year. “Well done Andy Murray!” he wrote. “Let’s hope he can do in this Jubilee year what Virginia Wade did when she won in 1977 during the Silver Jubilee!”

But making the final may prove to be the easy part (a point cynics have been making ever since Rafael Nadal’s shock defeat undoubtedly opened up the draw for the Scot.) Murray must now square off with Federer, who owns six Wimbledon titles already. The Swiss tennis ace won’t just be playing for another trophy: he’ll be motivated by the record books. If he wins he will return to World No. 1, and his seventh victory would put him on-par with the legendary Pete Sampras. But in Murray’s favor is the fact he’s playing on home turf — even though Federer said he’s looking forward to playing the “local hero” — and, along with Nadal, Murray’s the only player with a winning record against Federer (8-7).

“It’s a great challenge,” Murray said of the looming showdown. “It’s one where I’m probably not expected to win the match, but one that, you know, if I play well, I’m capable of winning.” At least he’ll surely fare better than Austin back in 1938, who only managed to win four games in the final against the great Don Budge. And if he can replicate the tennis he produced during the first two sets against Tsonga, Murray might finally stop the nation talking endlessly about Fred Perry, who was the last British male to win Wimbledon in 1936.

(LISTS: Top 15 Tennis Player Outbursts)