Andy Murray admits only his perfect game will be good enough to defeat six-time champion Roger Federer in today’s Wimbledon final and become Britain’a first men’s champion in 76 years.
The 25-year-old Scot, the first Briton in the final since Bunny Austin in 1938, is desperate to be the home country’s first champion since Fred Perry in 1936.
However, standing in his way is 30-year-old Federer, the 16-time Grand Slam title winner written off as a spent force by many in the sport, but who can equal Pete Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon triumphs today.
Victory would also put Federer, who knocked out defending champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, back on top of the world rankings after a two-year absence.
Murray leads Federer 8-7 in career meetings, but the great Swiss has won their only meetings in Grand Slam finals — the 2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Open.
“I just need to try and make sure I play a perfect match on Sunday,” said Murray, who reached the final with a four-set win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“It obviously would be very nice [to beat Federer], but I can’t allow myself to think that far ahead. I’ll just focus on getting the tactics right,” he said. “There’s obviously going to be nerves and pressure, but I need to try and stay focused.”
Murray has been desperately close to the final in the last three years, but came up short in the semi-finals, losing to Andy Roddick in 2009 and then suffering back-to-back losses to Rafael Nadal, a shock second-round casualty this year.
Murray believes he can thrive on being the underdog against Federer, who will be playing in a record eighth final at Wimbledon.
“He’s one of the greatest ever players. He’s been doing it consistently over a number of years. The matches he has lost the last couple of years were five sets against Tsonga (2011), five sets against Berdych (2010), five sets against Rafa. He’s very, very tough to beat here,” Murray said.
“It’s a great challenge, one where I’m probably not expected to win, but one that, if I play well, I’m capable of winning. 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,” he added.
Murray also took the opportunity to decry those critics who wrote off Federer, condemned as a relic in the new golden age of Djokovic and Nadal.
“If you look at the way he played, you can’t say he’s passed it or because he’s 30 he’s playing worse tennis. I just think the players around have gotten better,” Murray said.
The last man to win a Grand Slam title over the age of 30 was Andre Agassi, who was pushing 33 when he captured the Australian Open in 2003.
Just two men over 30 have won Wimbledon — Rod Laver, who was almost 31 when he won in 1969, and Arthur Ashe, who was just five days short of his 32nd birthday when he was champion in 1975.
Federer has had some almighty struggles at Wimbledon in recent years, as well as in this campaign.
After winning his sixth title in an epic final in 2009 over Roddick, he fell to quarter-final defeats to Tomas Berdych in 2010 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, from two sets to love up, last year.
This year, he came back from two sets to love behind to beat French journeyman Julien Benneteau and needed treatment on a back injury during his fourth-round win over Xavier Malisse.