Murray shoulders British hope and glory

LONDON: 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 through the roof.

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.

The stage may be set but there's one slight problem.

On the other side of the net stands six-time champion Roger Federer, widely regarded as the finest player of all time and bidding to level the record of seven Wimbledon titles held by Pete Sampras.

A win for the 30-year-old Swiss, written off as a spent force coming into the tournament, would mean a 17th Grand Slam crown.

Murray, 25, has come agonisngly close to the final before - he was a semi-finalist in 2009, where he lost to Andy Roddick, and in 2010 and 2011, on both occasions losing to Rafael Nadal.

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, knocked out in the quarter-finals for the past two years, has the greater experience, playing in a record eighth Wimbledon final and 24th Grand Slam championship match.

"He's one of the greatest ever players," said Murray.

"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. The pressure that I would be feeling if it was against somebody else I guess it would be different.

"But there will be less on me on Sunday because of who he is."

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.

Despite the last of Federer's 16 Grand Slam titles having come at the 2010 Australian Open, he believes he won't feel a sense of desperation on Sunday.

"I'm in a good place mentally and you have got to be that for the finals," he said.

"There's a lot on the line for me. I'm not denying that. I have a lot of pressure, as well. I'm looking forward to that. That's what I work hard for."

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. I have only retained patchy impressions of that day, such as being in a classroom singing songs," 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." - AFP

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