London: Canadian Milos Raonic will not be the only man experiencing something new on Wimbledon’s Centre Court on Sunday — for the first time Britain’s Andy Murray will start a grand slam final as favourite after crushing Tomas Berdych in the semis.
Murray was seeded to meet world number one Novak Djokovic in another major showdown but the Serb’s shock early exit opened the door for sixth seed Raonic to reach his maiden grand slam final after making the semis two years ago.
All 10 of Murray’s previous grand slam finals were against either Djokovic or Federer, which explains why the 29-year-old Scot has endured more than his fair share of pain and still only has two majors to his name.
One of those defeats came against a sublime Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final and a repeat of that duel was expected until the Swiss maestro lost to Raonic on Friday.
With a 6-3 head-to-head career lead over the 25-year-old Raonic, Murray will be expected to get his grand slam collection rolling again, three years after beating Djokovic to become Britain’s first Wimbledon men’s singles champion for 77 years.
Leading bookmakers were quoting Murray as 2-7 on favourite hours after he beat Berdych on Friday.
“It’s the first time I’ll play a slam final against someone that isn’t Roger or Novak. So, yeah, that’s different,” Murray, who won the 2012 U.S. Open against Djokovic, told reporters.
“But you never know how anyone’s going to deal with the pressures of a slam final.
“I’ll just concentrate on my side, do what I can to prepare well for it and see what happens.”
Murray’s most recent encounter with the big-serving Raonic came in the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event at Queen’s Club when he beat him in a fiercely-contested final having trailed.
“It’s obviously an opportunity. I put myself in a position to try and win the (Wimbledon) event again. It’s against someone new that I’m playing against in the final,” Murray said.
“But Milos is a very tough opponent. He’s played very well on the grass this year and has earned his right to (be in) the final by beating one of the best, if not the best, player ever at this event. So he deserves to be there.”
Raonic has played two tough five-setters to reach the final, against David Goffin in round four and Friday’s thriller with Federer, whereas Murray’s path has been relatively smooth.
A two-hour semi-final against Berdych, in which he made only nine unforced errors for a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win, was about as stress-free as it gets at the business end of a grand slam tournament.
“I feel pretty calm just now, maybe because of the way the match went,” Murray said. “There weren’t many complications.
“I feel fairly calm.”