LONDON — British history alone a massive burden, and the chance that the Queen herself will be peering over his shoulder from the Royal Box, Andy Murray on Sunday will have far more on his mind than just Roger Federer when he takes Centre Court to try to win the Wimbledon title.
Just Roger Federer. If only Murray, 25, could relegate the Swiss master to that just-one-more-hacker-with-a-racket category. But Federer has prevailed at the All England six times, just one shy of Pete Sampras’s legendary mark, and a win Sunday would place him again atop the world rankings, nudging him past Serbian star Novak Djokovic, whom Federer efficiently dismissed in Friday’s semifinals.
So, in no particular order, the Scottish-born Murray will be playing:
■ For his first Grand Slam title (16 fewer than the 30-year-old grand wizard on the other side of the net).
■ To become the first UK-born male since Fred Perry in 1936 to win on the homeland’s prized turf.
■ To overcome other failed Grand Slam final appearances in Australia (2010, ’11) and the United States (2008).
Sunday truly could be the 6-foot-3-inch Murray’s crowning moment, his time to turn the All England Club into his very own gin joint. Unfortunate, though, that in a part of the world that really appreciates its gin, Federer had to wander into the bar.
“Well, [Federer’s] obviously one of the greatest players ever to have played,’’ noted Murray, shortly after he sent off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Friday’s other semifinal. “He’s got probably — [I’m] not sure who has a better win/loss record than him here. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t the best in terms of his win/loss ratio here. And, yeah, he’s been doing it consistently over a number of years. The matches he has lost the last couple of years was five sets against Tsonga, five sets against [Tomas] Berdych, five sets against Rafa [Nadal]. He’s very, very tough to beat here.’’
Federer won here every year, 2003-09, except ’08, but was wiped out in the quarterfinals the last couple of years and has not won a Slams title since his 2010 triumph in Australia. He will turn 31 next month, and in tennis years that makes him long in the tooth and short in the line to retirement (one comfort is his $71 million-plus in career winnings).
At his best, as he was against Djokovic, Federer is an intelligent, plotting master of execution, with a menacing and somewhat underrated serve and near flawless return, both on backhand and forehand. His game is as meticulous and as crafted as his clothing.
The bigger, stringier Murray often pounds his serve a bit harder that Federer and runs down balls at times like a gangly Great Dane whose morning bowl of chow has been spiked with greenies (remember, it’s a grass tournament). He may lack Federer’s ease of stroke and that confidence that borders on bravado, but he is tremendous fun to watch and his No. 4 world ranking is no fluke. He may yet to have bagged that career-making Slams title, but he’s got gobs of game, not to mention a Kingdom of locals pulling for him.
Make that a Kingdom plus at least one — the indomitable Serena Williams, who on Saturday captured her fifth title here.
“It’s great for him,’’ said Williams. “I’m a big Andy Murray fan. I love watching him play. I think he’s really exciting.
“So, you know, he’s doing well right now. I think he’ll obviously have the crowd behind him, which also could be a little nerve-racking — could be a little nervous playing at home.’’
Federer, who consistently offers praise of Murray’s game, said Friday that he likes playing in big matches that have the homeboy and the home crowd teamed up on the other side of the net. The understated Federer didn’t bellow, “Bring on that big bloke!’’ but it was clear that he already was trying to fashion any Murray advantage into something he could share or shave.
“I always say in whatever country I am I like to play the local hero . . . and Andy is exactly that here at Wimbledon,’’ said Federer, whose victories here should be enough to make him a naturalized citizen of the UK, or at least honorary mayor of this sleepy burg.
“I don’t know. I hope I have some crowd support, but it’s not the very most important thing right now.’’
Murray’s gritty win Friday over Tsonga made him the first UK male to reach the final since “Bunny” Austin in 1938. The last loyal subject to win here was the great Perry, who ultimately left for the US and lived much of his adult life in Australia. Nonetheless, he has a statue on the grounds, one that one day might have to be shifted a few inches to make room for Murray’s bronzed likeness if the great Scot ever wins here.
“Yeah, it obviously would be very nice,” mused Murray, asked what it would mean to win it all at Wimbledon. “You know, I can’t allow myself to think that far ahead.’’
Serena, Venus prevail
In the women’s doubles final, Serena and big sister Venus Williams defeated Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-4. . . In the men’s doubles final, Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen beat Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (5-7), 6-3. Marray is the first British man to win a men’s doubles title at Wimbledon since 1936.