One celebrated his win with a fistpump and no effusions. No wagging fingers, very sober. The other was overcome by emotion, fighting back tears, pointing to the skies as has been his habit after each win this tournament. Both will fight for history on Sunday. Roger Federer and Andy Murray have set up a final of great expectations on each side.
The weight of History
Roger Federer owns many of the most prestigious records in the game, it’s no secret. When he reached the semi-finals, on Wednesday, he set another one: his 32nd consecutive semi-final appearance, making him the sole owner of that Open Era record.
By defeating defending champion Novak Djokovic 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3 today, Roger Federer reached the Wimbledon final for an eighth time (the first time since 2009), which is also a record. Should he win on Sunday, he will equal Pete Sampras not once, but twice: once by winning his seventh Wimbledon title (a record also shared with William Renshaw), twice by tying him with the most weeks at no 1, which he would be for a 286th week on Monday, which means that, in all likelihood, he would pass this record the following week.
It’s a pressure that Federer knows well and has learned to accept, pass, and, in a sense, love: the pressure of making history. Nothing he isn’t used to, nothing he hasn’t seen before. After all, it is on the same court that he achieved one of his biggest feats: taking Grand Slam title no 15, three years ago.
The weight of a nation, more than ever
There hadn’t been a men’s singles finalist from Great Britain at Wimbledon since Henry “Bunny” Austin in 1938, there hasn’t been a men’s singles winner from Great Britain since 1936, when Fred Perry won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
The first wait is now over, as Andy Murray defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-5 in the semi-final, creating the biggest PAndy-monium ever seen on the Wimbledon grounds.
Just for him to reach the finals is a great accomplishment in itself, considering that, of the four men who played today, he had, by far, the toughest draw. Yet he’s made it all the way to the finals, where the toughest rivals of all awaits him.
Despite the Scot being 8-7 in the head-to-head, Roger Federer has beaten Murray in both Grand Slam finals the two contested (U.S. Open 2008, Australian Open 2010). Furthermore, Murray has never won a set in either of the three Grand Slam finals he played (the last one being last year, in Melbourne).
The weight of a nation’s expectations is something Murray has learned early in his career to deal with, but somewhere, somehow, this might have played a little part in his finals’ performances at Grand Slam level so far. I say a little, as the biggest part of it was, without a doubt, the quality of his opponents’ game in those matches.
After achieving what none before him has done since 1938, Andy Murray has another chance to end the other long draught of British tennis.
What history will be written on Sunday? Will it be Roger Federer’s HI7TORY or Andy Murray’s H1STORY?
Talking about history…
The Brits are taking a double turn in making history this weekend. A little before Andy Murray booked his finals spot, another Brit, Jonathan Marray, also created a first in the Open Era when, along with Danish partner Frederik Nielsen, they took out defending champions Bob and Mike Bryan in four sets to qualify for the mens’ doubles finals.
In Marray’s case, it’s a 52-year draught for British men’s doubles that he ends.
Marray and Nielsen will play Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau, finalists for a third consecutive year, in tomorrow’s final.
Whatever happens in both finals, however, the Brits have cause to celebrate today, as they have two players in finals, at home. A great achievement!