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Posted on: Friday, January 29, 2010

Tennis: Murray seeks to end Britain's 74-year drought


ROBERT MILLWARD
AP Sports Writer

LONDON The last time a British man won a singles title at a Grand Slam, Jesse Owens embarrassed Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Olympics, Max Schmeling knocked out Joe Louis to win the world heavyweight title and FIFA president Sepp Blatter was born.

Andy Murray tries to end that embarrassing 74-year-old drought on Sunday by beating the best player in the world, Roger Federer, at the Australian Open.

The 22-year-old Scot will have the weight of a nation on his shoulders when he steps out to face a player considered by many as the best ever.

He is trying to become the first Brit since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a men's singles title at one of the sport's majors. Perry won the forerunner to the U.S. Open to go with his third straight Wimbledon title.

Even Federer, who beat Murray in the 2008 U.S. Open final, is joking about it.

"I know he'd like to win the first for British tennis in what is it, like 150,000 years?" the Swiss star said after winning his semifinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday. "The poor guy has to go through those moments over and over again."

Murray's achievement of reaching another final and playing brilliant tennis along the way has put him on the front as well as the back pages of the daily newspapers back home. He has even shoved soccer aside on some of the sports pages with The Times of London devoting its last five pages to the Australian Open.

While Murray has a growing number of supporters in Melbourne, millions back home will be watching on TV, roaring him on from Glasgow to London, hoping that he will capture what eluded Bunny Austin, John Lloyd and Greg Rusedski, who all lost in finals.

"Federer is the man to beat but Andy can win, there is no doubt about it," said Lloyd, who lost in five sets to Vitas Gerulaitis in the final of the 1977 Australian Open. "Federer has been impressive at times but perhaps not as much in the past, and there is no doubt now that Andy has the weapons to exploit areas of Roger's game."

Rusedski, who lost to Pat Rafter at the 1997 U.S. Open, called on Murray to attack Federer from the start.

"The most important thing is going to be the start," Rusedski said. "When they faced each other in the U.S. Open, Andy came in a little bit tentative. If he does that again, that will not be good.

"It's always about the Slams for Federer, so this is a big test. Andy believes he belongs with the very best, he believes he's going to win a slam. It's a 50-50 right now where Fed's slightly edging it. But he will win one one day."