Murray Ends Britain’s 74-Year Wait for Wimbledon Final Place

Andy Murray became the first British man in 74 years to reach the Wimbledon final, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a berth against six-time champion Roger Federer.

Murray defeated the Frenchman 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 on Centre Court to end a run of three straight semifinal losses. Federer earlier reached a record eighth men’s final at the All England Club by beating defending champion Novak Djokovic.

“At the end of the match it was obviously very emotional,” Murray said in a news conference. “Haven’t really been like that before in a semifinal match, so obviously it meant something to me and it was very, very important.”

Oddsmakers installed Federer at the 4-9 favorite for the title.

Murray won with a forehand return that landed on the line. It was called out, and he successful appealed the decision to become the first British man in the Wimbledon final since Henry “Bunny” Austin in 1938. The victory ends a run of 11 defeats for British men in the Wimbledon semifinals since Austin’s success, which occurred when Queen Elizabeth II’s father, King George VI, was on the throne.

No British man has taken a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry won the U.S. Championships in 1936. Perry also won Wimbledon that year, and his statue is the first thing spectators see when they enter the grounds.

Murray pointed his index fingers to the sky and dropped to his knees after the victory. He has lost all three Grand Slam finals he’s played: the 2008 U.S. Open and 2010 Australian Open to Federer, and the 2011 Australian to Djokovic of Serbia.

Federer Favored

The 25-year-old Murray has won eight of the 15 times he’s played Federer. U.K. gambling website William Hill gives Federer odds of 4-9 to win in the championship match on July 8, which means a successful $9 beat would return $4 plus the original stake. Murray is the 13-8 underdog.

The 30-year-old from Switzerland beat Djokovic, the top seed and defending champion, in the day’s first semifinal to move closer to regaining the top ranking in men’s tennis.

Federer, the winner of a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, defeated the 25-year-old 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 under the roof on Centre Court.

‘Murray Mania’

“Murray Mania” in the British media has been on the increase with every win, especially after two-time champion Rafael Nadal was upset in the second round by 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic. Murray, who lost to Nadal in the two previous semifinals, had been drawn in the same half as the Spanish left-hander.

Murray played a tactical match against the hard-hitting Tsonga in the first two sets, pulling him into the net with drop shots followed by passing shots. Murray won the first set with a forehand as the crowd roared. The 27-year-old Tsonga asked for the trainer after he lost the second set, with Murray barely making an error.

Tsonga, who used powerful ground strokes to beat Federer from two sets down in the quarterfinals last year, won the third set as he rushed to the net and dictated the points. Serving for the third set at 5-3, Tsonga sank to his knees after a serve hit him in the crotch. He recovered to win the set when Murray netted a return.

Murray broke for a 3-1 lead in the fourth set, only for Tsonga to break back with a crushing forehand return at Murray’s feet.

Oldest Semifinalist

Federer, the oldest semifinalist, hasn’t won a major title since the 2010 Australian Open. His seventh Wimbledon championship would tie the men’s record held by Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. He’d never played Djokovic on grass.

“It was obviously a big occasion,” Federer told reporters. “These matches only help my confidence. I hope I can use it then for the finals.”

If he wins the title, he’ll reclaim the top spot in the ATP World Tour rankings, where he’s one week short of tying Sampras’s record of 286 weeks at No. 1.

“I’ve got a tough task ahead of me,” Federer said. “There is a lot on the line for me, the No. 1. There will be pressure.”

Djokovic said he had felt ill for almost a week.

“I had bad last couple days,” he said in a news conference. “Last five, six days I wasn’t feeling great. But I don’t want to talk about it now.”

Royal Box

Under the Centre Court roof and watched by former champion Rod Laver and singer Kylie Minogue from the royal box, Djokovic handed Federer a break point in the first set as he lunged for a backhand volley that landed in the net. Federer broke as Djokovic netted another backhand. Serving at 5-3, Federer took the set in 24 minutes with a forehand winner.

Improving his returns in the second set, Djokovic broke serve for a 2-0 lead as a backhand down the line forced Federer into an error. He served out the set with his fifth ace.

At 2-3 down in the third, Djokovic fought off two break points in a game of baseline rallies as long as 26 shots. Serving at 4-5 down, Djokovic handed Federer two set points with a smash that sailed long. He saved one with a forehand winner, only for Federer to take a two-sets-to-one lead with a smash.

Service Problems

Djokovic kept on struggling with his serve, getting broken in the opening game of the fourth set. Federer took a 3-0 lead and served out the match as Djokovic hit a forehand return into the net, his 21st error. Federer only made 10 errors and produced 31 winners, three more than his opponent.

“In the start of the fourth set I dropped in the energy level, I thought,” Djokovic said. “I played really a couple of sloppy games, very slow, with no pace, very low percentage of first serves. When you don’t have free points from the first serve, it’s very difficult to kind of get in the rhythm and the control of the match when you have an opponent as Federer.”

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