Wimbledon – Men’s Final (Sunday 8th July 2012)

Roger Federer (3) vs Andy Murray (4)

It’s fair to say that the British public have been more than patient in waiting for another home favourite to win Wimbledon. 76 years to be precise and Andy Murray has his long overdue shot at history on Sunday afternoon where he makes his fourth Grand Slam final appearance and his first in SW19.

It’s quite fitting I feel that Sunday’s showpiece features the two players who have demonstrated the best tennis over the course of the tournament fortnight. Roger Federer has had to overcome a couple of scares just to get here, having to come back from two sets to love down against Frenchman Julien Benneteau in round three and playing through the pain barrier against Xavier Malisse in round four due to an apparent back injury. Since then however, Federer’s play has brought back memories of his grass court dominance in the early 2000’s by bulldozing Mikhail Youzhny in the last eight before seeing off world number one Novak Djokovic in four sets to progress to his eighth Wimbledon final.

Unusually, Murray has kept his tournament dramas to a relative minimum during the 2012 championships. Dropping sets against Ivo Karlovic, Marcos Baghdatis, David Ferrer, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga wouldn’t necessarily be considered the greatest preparation for a Grand Slam final but encouragingly, Murray hasn’t been in the sort of trouble we are used to seeing when he competes in the major tournaments. Admittedly a few more straight set wins would have been favourable in order to keep his court time to a minimum but crucially, Murray has raised his game at the big points in the big matches. He has served terrifically well and aside from a couple of passive periods during the Baghdatis match, has approached each and every one of his matches in a very tactically adept way.

Moving onto the final itself and I believe that service holds will play a big part in who is likely to emerge as the 2012 Wimbledon champion. Looking at the tournament statistics thus far, Murray has arguably served as well as I think I have ever seen. He has served 15 more aces than Federer and has won 65% of the points behind his second serve, something I have always felt needed vast improvement in the Murray game, particularly against the top players. On the flipside, Federer is winning an impressive 79% of the points behind his first serve over the duration of the tournament. Nerves aside, I’d expect service breaks to be at a premium come Sunday afternoon, even though both Murray and Federer lead the tournament service break statistics with 28 for Murray and 34 for Federer.

One particular tactic I think Murray will need to employ tomorrow will be to attack the Federer backhand. Like myself, Tim Henman believes this is Murray’s best chance of disrupting the Federer game, with this aspect of the Swiss’ game exposed on many an occasion by Rafael Nadal in Grand Slam finals. Naturally Murray will not beat Federer tomorrow with a one dimensional game plan but I feel serving well and putting Federer’s backhand under constant pressure with some deep ground strokes and perhaps throwing in a couple of looping balls might be the key to Murray proving successful.

The difficulty facing Murray is the fact there aren’t many chinks in the Federer armour. Particularly during his matches against Youzhny and Djokovic, Federer’s footwork seemed as good as it ever was, not to mention him serving like a machine. It goes without saying that if Murray’s level drops or he allows Federer to dictate play and find his rhythm early on, Sunday’s final could be a mirror image of his previous major finals, in which he is yet to win a set. I’ve seen a different attitude and a different philosophy from Murray during this tournament and I don’t think it is any coincidence that Ivan Lendl is Andy’s coach. To have someone of Lendl’s stature in your own corner, coupled with the piece of mind that Lendl himself has been where Murray finds himself tomorrow can only be an enormous confidence boost for the Scot.

To summarise how I anticipate Sunday’s final to pan out, I expect Murray to do something he has never done before. Sadly for British fans, I predict this will be winning a set in a Grand Slam final and not actually winning the event itself. It still must be mentioned that Murray has surpassed expectations this year, having come through a draw that many fans and pundits believed to be far too difficult. Unfortunately, Federer in my opinion will cement his place once again in Wimbledon history and win a seventh title in SW19.

Selection: Roger Federer @ 1.55
Score Prediction: 3-1 @ 3.8

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdquinn86

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