There are times in life when all one could do in the face of perfection is stand up and applause. It would have definitely been the easier option for Andy Murray against Roger Federer on Friday.
But Murray opted to fight instead; and even though it was to no avail and he lost 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 in just over two hours, the world No4 should find solace in the fact that he did everything he could against a vintage version of Federer – or perhaps one that is even better than we’ve ever seen in the past.
“It’s definitely one of the best matches I've played in my career,” said Federer, who is through to an all-time record-extending 26th grand slam final. “I don't know, the first set, I don't remember point by point, but it was definitely really, really solid.”
Entering yesterday’s semi-final against Murray, Federer had dropped serve just once throughout the tournament. That stat remains true ahead of his final tomorrow against Novak Djokovic with the Swiss holding serve in 89 of his 90 service games this fortnight and saving three of the four break points he has faced.
Murray’s one and only chance to break came at the very start of their semi-final after the Scot had unleashed a brilliant down-the-line backhand winner. But Federer gave an indication of how solid he was on serve early on as he swiftly saved the break chance and held for 1-0.
Murray wouldn’t get a look at a break point for the rest of the contest.
The 2013 Wimbledon champion was not doing much wrong. He was serving well, moving well, but despite being one of the best returners of the game, Murray was impotent on the Federer serve.
In the opening set, Federer had recorded 23 winners including 11 aces, committed just three unforced errors and landed an astounding 85 per cent of his first serves in.
“It’s a statistical anomaly what he’s doing right now,” was all ex-world No1 Andy Roddick could say as he commentated the match on the BBC.
Murray agreed. He said he looked up at the stats on the screen during the match and could see Federer was untouchable on his serve.
After breaking the Murray serve in the 12th game of the opening set, the pair had an epic battle in a 15-minute 10th game of the second. Murray heroically saved five break points to hold for 5-5 but it proved futile in the end as Federer, again, broke in game 12 to take a commanding two-set lead.
Federer flicked a ridiculous backhand passing shot for 0-30 in game 10 of the third set, to go within two points of victory. The seven-time Wimbledon champion got his first match point and Federer stepped into the final on a wide forehand from Murray, breaking the hearts of the home crowd, which included the Duke of York and Duchess of Kent, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Thierry Henry, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sienna Miller, Sachin Tendulka, Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma and Anna Wintour.
“At the end of the day, I enjoy it,” said the 33-year-old Federer, whose Wimbledon semi-final record stands at a perfect 10-0.
“I work hard in the practice so in a match like this, I can have a great performance. And clearly it's an amazing feeling when you come back from the match and everybody's so happy for you, even like on the inside of the Royal Box when I was walking back, there was applause all the way to the locker room. Something I don't remember really having.”
A disappointed Murray believes he did not play a poor match and concedes that he was simply facing a formidable opponent. Their head-to-head record now stands at a close 13-11 in Federer’s favour.
“He served fantastic, apart from the first game where I had the chance there. Didn't really have any opportunities. Then that puts pressure on you. The pressure builds throughout the set that way,” said Murray, who is now 1-5 against Federer in grand slam matches.
“Obviously got broken right at the end all of the sets. But didn't actually play a bad match. Played pretty well.”