Novak Djokovic (SRB)(1) v Andy Murray (GBR)(2) – 2pm on Centre Court
For tennis fans, the past two weeks have been something of a rollercoaster. One by one, a string of the game’s biggest names went crashing out with two in-form defending champions crumbling in the early stages. But after all the twists and turns, ups and downs, this afternoon the top two seeds will do battle on Centre Court – a fitting end to a tumultuous but thrilling tournament.
The good news is one of them is British. Andy Murray’s second consecutive Wimbledon final will be an entirely different experience to his first. Rewind twelve months and he had overcome the odds to set up a clash with the seemingly unstoppable Roger Federer and, despite a decent start, was eventually outplayed by the Swiss maestro at his very best. The tears that flowed won over many of his doubters and, more importantly, heralded a new era for the British number one.
A month later he was back out on Centre against Federer, this time claiming the Olympic title, before heading out to New York in September to seal his maiden Grand Slam title. A remarkable transformation for a man who many feared was destined to always play second fiddle to the talents of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
But the Andy Murray who will walk out on court today is a man many are favouring to become the next Wimbledon champion, no longer the underdog but a believable contender. That’s not to say his opposition isn’t formidible. Novak Djokovic is in the form of his life, a six-time Grand Slam champion and winner at SW19 in 2011 who didn’t drop a set until his epic semi-final against plucky Argentine, Juan Martin del Potro.
Their five-set thriller on Friday saw the world number one pushed all the way but, as we’ve come to expect from Djokovic, it also demonstrated the craftsmanship of which he is capable. The Serb is at his most dangerous when backed into a corner and Murray will be all too wary of the sort of tennis Djokovic produced in order to book his place in today’s final. Hopefully the exhausting five-hour affair will have taken some of the wind from his sails…
After an underwhelming performance in his own five-setter against Fernando Verdasco in the quarters, Murray played like the champion he could become on Friday, battling past promising young Pole Jerzy Janowicz in four tight sets where he served brilliantly and neuralised his opponent’s powerful game. If he can produce a similar performance this afternoon, the lofty expectations of the British public might just be fulfilled.
That doesn’t mean it won’t be one of the toughest matches of his career. He and Djokovic grew up together on the circuit and have already met in three Grand Slam finals, with Murray’s only win coming at Flushing Meadows last autumn. But they have never played for a Wimbledon title and, crucially, the Scot won their only encounter on grass in the Olympic semi-finals last year.
Murray’s game will need to be watertight – if his level drops in any area of his game you can rely on Djokovic to take full advantage. He will also need to be aggressive, dictating play rather than allowing his opponent to direct him around the court as the Serb is unlikely to give away many free points. Nothing but Murray’s best tennis will see him claim the title but a win today is certainly within his capabilities.
For the Centre Court spectators and millions of fans watching from home, the prospect of this final is mouth-watering. After a tournament that saw many relative unknowns thrust into the limelight, the men’s final could have gone the same way as the women’s – an underwhelming event suffering the aftermath of big name exits. But Murray versus Djokovic is a worthy end to a thrilling competition and, as the Scot has pointed out, “Playing the number one in the world in the final of Wimbledon is certainly not easy, but it would make winning the title an even greater achievement.”
He also has the crowd on his side and, in a game which could sway on the tiniest of margins, they could make all the difference. In his tearful speech a year ago he paid tribute to his fanbase, telling them “you make it so much easier to play”. The Union Jacks will be out in force once again this afternoon, fighting to turn their hopeful into the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years.
Can he do it? Well, it’s all down to Murray. He’s certainly capable of playing like a champion and this time he’s got experience on his side. There’s no doubt Novak will bring his A-game today but Murray has said he will “leave absolutely everything out there” in his bid to seal victory. Let’s hope it’s enough.
The Wimbledon final begins at 2pm with build-up hosted by Sue Barker starting at 12:50pm – both on BBC1
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