LONDON (AFP) –
Andy Murray hopes to make history Sunday by becoming Britain’s first Wimbledon men’s champion in 76 years, a landmark challenge which has sent optimism and ticket prices soaring.
An estimated 17 million people are set to watch the historic match on domestic television alone while good luck messages have flooded in for the Scot, who tackles six-times champion Roger Federer.
Murray is the first home player to get to the final since Bunny Austin in 1938.
Victory would make him the first British champion since Fred Perry in 1936, the year when the Nazis marched into the Rhineland and the Spanish civil war began.
“Since I left for Spain 10 years ago and decided I wanted to become a professional tennis player, these are the moments I’ve spent every day working towards,” Murray wrote on his BBC blog on Sunday morning.
“I moved away from my family at the age of 15, lived and trained in another country. I had to do that to get where I am today, challenging for the sport’s biggest prizes.”
Federer is widely regarded as the finest player of all time and is bidding to level the record of seven Wimbledon titles held by Pete Sampras.
A win for the 30-year-old Swiss would mean a 17th Grand Slam crown.
The Scot, runner-up at the 2008 US Open and 2010 and 2011 Australian Open, insists he is the underdog as he tries to win his first major, despite holding an 8-7 career lead over Federer in head-to-head meetings.
Federer has the greater experience, playing in a record eighth Wimbledon final and 24th Grand Slam championship match.
“It’s a great challenge, one where I’m probably not expected to win, but one that, if I play well, I’m capable of winning,” said Murray.
Federer will return to the world number one spot if he wins, becoming the second oldest man behind Andre Agassi to take the top ranking.
Just two men over 30 have won Wimbledon — Rod Laver, who was almost 31 when he won in 1969 and Arthur Ashe who was just five days short of his 32nd birthday when he was champion in 1975.
“There’s a lot on the line for me. I have a lot of pressure, as well. I’m looking forward to that. That’s what I work hard for,” said Federer.
Fans will have to dig deep if they want to see history made with Centre Court tickets, which are priced at £120 ($186), being sold for astronomical sums.
Edward Parkinson, director of ticket market place website Viagogo UK, said: “We could see tickets being offered for up to £45,000 ($69,958) for a pair.”
Meanwhile, residents of Murray’s hometown of Dunblane in central Scotland will be desperate for a celebration.
In 1996, the town was the scene of a bloody massacre when a gunman burst into Murray’s school, killing 16 children and a teacher.
As a frightened eight-year-old, Murray hid under a desk as the gunman ran amok.
“Some of my friends’ brothers and sisters were killed,” Murray wrote in his autobiography, Hitting Back.
“The weirdest thing was that we knew (the gunman) Thomas Hamilton. He had been in my mum’s car. It’s obviously weird to think you had a murderer in your car, sitting next to your mum.”
Good luck messaged for Murray poured in on Sunday, just hours before the scheduled start time of the match at 1400 (1300GMT) which looks likely to be played beneath the Centre Court roof as heavy rain swamped south-west London.
British Prime Minister David Cameron sent a message to Murray’s mother Judy, the country’s women’s Fed Cup coach.
“Its not every day u get an email from the Prime Minister. Just saying,” she tweeted.
Cameron is expected to be amongst the guests in the Royal Box as is the Duchess of Cambridge, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and David and Victoria Beckham.
There was one good omen for Murray on Saturday night when compatriot Jonathan Marray became Britain’s first men’s doubles champion at Wimbledon since 1936, ironically the same year that Perry lifted the country’s last singles title.
“If it gives him any kind of inspirational help, I’m sure it would be good,” said 31-year-old Marray, who teamed up with Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen.