WHATEVER the outcome tomorrow in London SW19, Andy Murray has earned his place in tennis and sporting history.
In beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-final he became not only the first British player since Bunny Austin in 1938 to contest a Wimbledon final but the first Scottish player ever to reach such an elevated peak. Hyperbole may be the much-mocked lingua franca of sport but in Murray's case it is appropriate. Quite simply his achievement is awesome.
That is not to suggest, however, that the route to his glorious position was not without its hiccups. With Murray it rarely is. Watching him play, while usually a pleasure for connoisseurs of this beautiful game, is not infrequently tinged with pain. Against Tsonga that came in the third set when Murray, two sets up and seemingly coasting towards the winning post, allowed the Frenchman to force his way back into the game. From there on every point was hard won. When eventually, and to an extent inevitably, he took the fourth set and the victory he and we craved, clouds metaphorically dissolved and for one sublime moment in this dreichest of summers there was the most brilliant sunshine.
For Murray it was the highlight of his career so far. It may seem to have been a long time coming but he is still a young man and capable of even greater achievements. While that remains a matter of speculation, what is not in doubt is his grit and determination. Lest we forget, he was a pupil at Dunblane in 1996 when so many other children lost their lives.
Aged 15, he moved abroad and he has lived out of a suitcase pretty much ever since. When he was 21, he reached the US Open final. For the past four years he has been a Wimbledon semi-finalist. He has won numerous tournaments and ranks fourth in the world. With better luck he might have won a Grand Slam before now but in his way have stood three players – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – who must rank among the all-time greats.
This afternoon Murray faces Federer who is arguably the greatest of the greats and whose record at Wimbledon is, quite frankly, scary. Murray, however, needs to banish any fear and play as he was born to, with joy and freedom, guile and power. He knows that the nation's hopes are with him and that adds to his burden.
In some quarters he has been criticised for saying that principally he wants to win for himself. But that must be his approach. Does anyone seriously think that Federer wants to win first for Switzerland? Prepare to scream. Dare to dream.
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