In tennis, the past nine Grand Slam men’s singles champions were either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. Not today. Not in Wimbledon. Not when, at 9 P.M. tonight (Phil. time) and over Star Sports, we have the chance to witness a historic and different ending.
Roger or Andy? Simple question, right? Yes. But the answers are complex. As a tennis observer the past 26 years, it’s obvious that Roger has the edge. He’s smiled and carried that golden trophy six times on Centre Court. (The last non-Rafa/Novak major final? The 2010 Australian Open between Roger and Andy—and we know who won that in straight sets.)
And so, while my head proclaims a Swiss winner, my hope is otherwise. Go, Great Britain! It’s been 76 loooooooong years since a British male player won at home. Fred Perry—whose name is a major clothing brand—was that last Briton. Can Andy break the spell? Do a Harry Potter-like wizardry act using the racquet as his sword to slay the giant? Or, since my daughter Jana thinks Andy looks like the Spiderman lead actor, Andrew Garfield, maybe he can weave his magic web to entrap RF? I hope so.
“The roof is going to blow off this thing if Murray wins on Sunday,” said doubles great Mark Woodforde. London, readying to host the Olympics in 19 days, will celebrate with July 4-like fireworks if Andy wins. He’ll be venerated—like Queen Elizabeth II was during the Diamond Jubilee. (Royalty, in fact, will be in attendance as Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, has confirmed her attendance; the Queen herself might watch!)
Murray wants to emulate one person today. “LeBron James would be a good example,” said Murray. “He came very close to winning quite a lot of times. Him winning this year I’m sure was massive… I would say for me I guess it’s a similar situation. I’ve been close a lot of times and not quite made it.”
Three times, Murray has reached a Grand Slam final. Thrice, he’s lost. Will this be fourth-time-lucky? Ivan Lendl hopes so. Murray’s coach (and an 8-time major winner) has never won Wimbledon. Can you imagine the scream of the stoic Lendl if his student wins? “It’s a great challenge, one where I’m probably not expected to win the match, but one that, you know, if I play well, I’m capable of winning,” Murray said. “But, yeah, if you look at his record here over the past 10 years or so, it’s 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, you know, because of who he is.”
FEDERER. “He,” of course, is the greatest ever: Roger F. Here’s an interesting fact: head-to-head, Andy leads Roger, 8-7. This should give the Scot extra confidence.
But for Roger, here’s added motivation: If he wins, he’ll pocket Major Title No. 17, plus, he’ll step up two notches in the ATP ladder and become world No. 1—tying Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks (at the top spot) and seven Wimby victories.
Sampras? He’s picking his buddy, saying, “I’ve always felt Roger’s the sort of guy that, if I’m going to see my records broken, I’d hope that it’s someone like him. I like his game. I like what he’s about. Just a very classy player. And we’re friends. Maybe makes it a little bit easier that it’s someone I genuinely like and consider a friend.”
(Interesting note: Who will British Honorary Consul Moya Jackson cheer for tonight? A lifelong Roger fan, will she switch sides to clap for UK to win?)
Back to the semifinals when Roger beat Novak, what a masterful performance. If you’re a Roger fan, you must be grinning and liking his chances. He was immaculate. His aces. His forehand was lethal.
To me, the two key points tonight are these: If Roger’s offensive weapons are precise and on-target, he’ll win. That’s how he won six W. titles. Andy? He can’t be a counter-puncher forever. He has to attack. You can’t just wait for Roger to dictate the game.
As I told today’s birthday celebrant Macky Michael, this Andy-Roger final is the dream Wimbledon finale. Watch it tonight at 9!