He put his fans through the wringer again but Andy Murray now stands one win from ending 76 years of British pain after reaching the Wimbledon men’s final on Friday - the only trouble is Roger Federer will be over the other side of the net.
The Scot’s nervy 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-5 victory over Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on a sun-kissed Centre Court gave the host country its first men’s finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938 but the 25-year-old will pay little heed to erasing that statistic.
Federer, who has made a career out of re-writing the record books, proved without doubt his powers are not fading when the 30-year-old outplayed reigning champion Novak Djokovic 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3 to reach a record eighth Wimbledon singles final.
“I always say in whatever country I am I like to play the local hero, I kind of call them, and Andy is exactly that here at Wimbledon,” Federer told reporters after reaching his first All England Club final since beating Andy Roddick in 2009.
Murray’s win, ending a sequence of 11 semi-final defeats for British men at the grasscourt citadel, set up a dream final against the Swiss who is poised to return to the world summit after two years playing second fiddle to Djokovic and Rafa Nadal.
“It’s a great challenge, I’m not expected to win the match but if I play well I’m capable of it,” Murray told reporters.
With the Centre Court crowd cheering every point he won, Murray romped into a two-set lead before the showy Tsonga threw caution to the wind, staging a furious fightback that rocked Murray and threatened to set up a jittery fifth set.
At 4-4, 15-40 in the fourth set the match seemed to be slipping through Murray’s fingers but he held his nerve, and his serve, and three games later victory was his after an agonizing wait while the Hawkeye screen showed his winning forehand was true.
Tears in his eyes, Murray pointed the sky as the crowd roared their approval and coach Ivan Lendl, who spent the match impassive in the players' box, nodding his approval.
“Bit of relief, excitement, it’s tough to explain. It was such a close match,” Murray, whose eyes are now fixed on emulating Fred Perry’s 1936 landmark triumph at the All England Club - a bronze statue of whom in the grounds provides a permanent reminder of his place in British tennis folklore.
“I’ve just got to keep it together for the final. It will be one of the biggest matches of my life.”