July 8, 2016
A second Wimbledon title beckons. Andy Murray reached the Wimbledon 2016 final by seeing off a sustained, attempted fight back from Tomas Berdych in the second set of their semi-final.
It was touch and go for a while; but when Berdych realised that his best wasn’t good enough, you could almost sense some part of him bowing to the inevitable somewhere deep inside.
From then on it was plain sailing for the awesome Brit, who won 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
He shoud be relatively fresh for Sunday’s showpiece as a result of winning in straight sets. He will need to be in great shape both mentally and physically to make his dream come true once more.
Standing in Murray’s way will be Milos Raonic, who surprisingly defeated Roger Federer despite falling behind at two sets to one.
It is a rematch of the Queens Club final, won by Murray but only after quite a struggle over three sets in the best-of-three format.
Murray said after his victory: ‘I’m very happy. The middle part of the second set against Tomas was really key. One more match to go on Sunday!
‘You never know how many chances you’re going to get to play in a Grand Slam final. But you learn from experiences in the past. I’ll need to play my best on Sunday. He is playing the best grass court tennis of his career. I’ll have to play very, very well.’
As his coach John McEnroe told us, there is far more to the Canadian’s game these days than a serve that regularly registers at 144 mph. Murray will underestimate Raonic at his peril, even if it appears that victory is in sight.
Crushing Raonic forehands, coupled with increasing levels of agility stunned Federer just when he seemed so close to glory.
‘I’m sad and angry with myself,’ admitted Federer. ‘This clearly hurts. I was so, so close.’
Such battling qualities and that nightmare serve make Raonic a formidable finalist, however, even if it is the first time he has reached one in a Grand Slam.
‘After the final at Queens I told Andy I wanted a rematch,’ said Raonic, clearly relishing the chance to prove himself against Murray once more.
Raonic it was who played the most mind-blowing tennis of the four semi-finalists, and when we least expected it from him, too.
The home favourite, Murray didn’t need to come too far out of his comfort zone against Berdych, so perhaps he still has a hatful of magic in reserve and will produce it when he needs to, should Raonic turn on the style again on Sunday.
For Murray, who broke early in the first set but was then broken straight back, one key moment came when he earned two more break points against Berdych when 4-3 ahead.
The Scot squandered the first of them but exerted fresh pressure on the second, forcing an under-fire Berdych to send a forehand spiralling wide.
Murray celebrated his 5-3 lead with an almighty yell as he realised that the opening set was almost his.
Berdych looked nervous, and when he netted a straightforward return, he was facing set point. Murray took his chance in style, closing out with an ace to strike the first blow 6-3.
One of the craziest miss of the entire Championships, a simple smash that flew hopelessly wide off the frame of his racquet, suggested that Berdych was no more composed early in the second set.
Yet the Czech had a break point to go 4-2, defended and nullified by Murray with such vigour that he yelled even louder and longer than before.
Berdych was playing well by now, and the 2013 champion needed all his skill and confidence to stay in the second-set fight. Berdych deserved a second shot at break point as the game continued towards the ten-minute mark.
Once again Murray was equal to the challenge and then served his way to parity in his toughest hold yet. This was the key to victory. Would such sturdy defence finally knock the stuffing out of his rival, who had nothing for all his efforts?
So it proved as Murray moved Berdych from corner to corner to earn two break points. The underdog’s drop-shot fell short and now it was Andy who had the break and was threatening to move two sets ahead.
Murray consolidated and Berdych was soon serving to avoid going two behind. At 0-40 Andy had three chances to close out the set 6-3. He took the second with a passing drive down the line. The final was starting to beckon.
Like a patient chess player, Murray drew his opponent into more fatal mistakes. Berdych fired wide at the end of another probing rally to find himself 1-3 behind in the third. Surely he wasn’t coming back from that predicament?
Murray wasn’t about to release his stranglehold now. As the sun sank behind the Centre Court stands, so the Berdych challenge faded and Murray closed out.
The sun will rise twice more before the Men’s Singles Final. It has been a wonderful Wimbledon and on Saturday we can enjoy a Ladies Final that could provide some tennis history of its own, as Serena Williams seeks to equal Steffi Graf on 22 Grand Slams.
Angelique Kerber will have to play far better than she has done so far this Wimbledon if she is to upset the odds again, as she did against Serena in Australia.
Sunday promises to even more unforgettable. Either Raonic will win his first Grand Slam…or Andy Murray will send Britain into fresh raptures.