• Wimbledon, Day 12

The biggest grand slam final of all time?

Jo Carter July 6, 2012

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As Andy Murray hit a blistering forehand to seal victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the British No. 1 showed a glimmer of just what it meant to him to reach his first Wimbledon final.

The moment was slightly ruined as Murray, who had already raised his arms in triumph amid cheers from the Centre Court, was forced to challenge the line judge, who called the ball out. But after an agonising wait, HawkEye confirmed what Murray already knew - that he was the first British male to reach the Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938.

Seventy-four years on, and the weight of British expectation hangs heavy on Murray's shoulders as he now bids to become the first British male grand slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936.

Standing between Murray and history is 16-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, who has gone two-and-a-half years without a major title. Admittedly, it's not 76 years, but for a player who up until last year had won at least one grand slam every year for eight years, it's a long time to go without tasting victory.

When Federer hit 30 last summer, he was forced to brush off questions about the future, insisting he could win another slam and return to world No. 1. Now, what was seen in some quarters as a pipe dream is a reality - the Swiss is one win away from a 17th grand slam title.

Victory at the All England Club - three years after his last - would see him equal William Renshaw and Pete Sampras' record of seven Wimbledon titles and would secure a return to the top of the world rankings, where he will equal Sampras' record of 286 weeks at the pinnacle of men's tennis.

"I'm obviously not expected to win the match. But if I play well I'm obviously capable of winning."

Murray has fallen at the semi-final stage three years running (to Andy Roddick in 2009 and to Rafael Nadal the last two years), and has fallen in three previous major finals - twice to Federer.

Speaking in his post-match press conference (where he was bizarrely asked what effect his dogs have had on his progress, and what he was doing 76 years ago), Murray was swift to pin the favourite's tag on Federer.

"I'm obviously not expected to win the match," he said. "But if I play well I'm obviously capable of winning."

When Murray hired Ivan Lendl at the beginning of the season, he did not do so in order to reach the Wimbledon final - he did it to win majors, and that sense of purpose was evident as Murray refused to get carried away during his press conference. For Murray, who has never even won a set in his previous three grand slam final appearances, making history as a finalist means nothing.

For Murray, it is perhaps his best chance to end his major duck in front of his home fans - for Federer it is a chance to silence his critics once and for all.

It is Federer's Wimbledon pedigree and vast experience against Murray and 15,000 others inside Centre Court - not to mention thousands of others outside on Henman Hill and beyond.

Federer is a popular champion at Wimbledon and is used to being loved - a hostile atmosphere at SW19 could unnerve him.

There will be so much at stake for both men when they step onto Centre Court on Sunday - is this the most significant grand slam final of all time?

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Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk