WIMBLEDON, England — The buzz around Centre Court gradually increased while Andy Murray inched closer to ending one of the longest waits in British sports.
A tennis crowd used to disappointments finally saw reason to believe, with the classic shouts of “Come on Andy” at Wimbledon over the past seven years coupled with the added encouragement: “You can do it.”
And, in his fourth attempt in four years, Murray finally did.
Murray became the first British man since 1938 to reach the Wimbledon final by beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 on Friday, living up to the hype and expectations at home that seemed to get bigger and bigger with every year.
“I think subconsciously at the end of the match it was obviously very emotional,” Murray said. “Haven’t really been like that before in a semifinal match, so obviously it meant something to me and it was very, very important. There is obviously a lot of pressure and stress around this time of year.”
And that pressure isn’t gone just yet. It won’t be until Murray can become the first British man to actually win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
That would mean beating Roger Federer in Sunday’s final, a task that might prove harder than Friday’s victory. Federer is a six-time Wimbledon champion who knows better than anyone in the game how to win on Centre Court. He beat defending champion and top-ranked Novak Djokovic to reach a record-tying eighth Wimbledon final.
Murray has lost to Federer twice before in Grand Slam finals, at the 2008 U.S. Open and the 2010 Australian Open – never winning a set.
“It’s a great challenge, one where I’m probably not expected to win the match, but one that, if I play well, I’m capable of winning,” said Murray, of Scotland. “If you look at his record here over the past 10 years or so, it’s been incredible. So the pressure that I would be feeling if it was against somebody else I guess it would be different. But there will be less on me on Sunday, because of who he is.”
Bunny Austin was the last home player to reach the Wimbledon final in 1938. Murray’s victory over Tsonga ended a streak of 11 consecutive losses for British players since then in the semifinals at the All England Club.
Murray had lost at that stage in the last three years, seemingly destined to regularly come up short just like some of his predecessors. Tim Henman lost four semifinals from 1998-2002 and Roger Taylor lost three from 1967-73. Mike Sangster in 1961 was the first Briton to even make the semifinals since Austin, but he lost as well.
After the victory was complete, Murray gave Tsonga a hug, then dropped his racket and walked to the center of the court to receive the ovation, both fingers pointed skyward in his signature gesture.
On Henman Hill – where the crowds used to gather to watch Henman’s many near-misses but now flock to watch Murray – fans let out an equally big cheer, celebrating a moment that many had doubted would ever come.