Tennis: Murray prepared to play best against Federer
Associated Press Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia — Andy Murray understands what it will take to beat Roger Federer in the Australian Open final and finally fulfill the hopes of an entire nation.
"I'm going to need to play my best match ever," Murray said Saturday. "That's what I plan on doing. If I do, I've got a good chance of winning."
The solution to ending a 74-year Grand Slam drought for Britain sounds simple in theory.
While Murray leads Federer 6-4 in career head-to-head matches, he lost their only meeting in a major at the U.S. Open final. And the only two matches that Murray has lost in his last nine against top-10 players have been to Federer.
Yet the 22-year-old Scot was so unruffled that he seemed almost bored as he explained why he believes he can handle Federer, who has won more Grand Slam singles titles than any other man.
"I've played him a lot of times so I know the way you need to play against him," Murray said. "It's not going to be too many surprises on the court tomorrow."
Federer is six years older and has 61 career titles to 14 for Murray, who is into a Grand Slam final for only the second time — the first British man to achieve that distinction in the Open era. Federer, on the other hand, played in all four finals last year and will be appearing in his 22nd overall, an all-time record.
He acknowledged that the pressure will be on Murray.
"I know what it takes (to win) and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage," Federer said. "I don't feel like the pressure's really on me having to do it again. I think he really needs it more than I do."
Then, of course, there's the intense pressure from home.
Murray is trying to become the first Brit since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a men's singles title at one of the four major tournaments. Murray's achievements at Melbourne Park have put him on the front pages of daily newspapers back home, and millions will be watching on TV.
Federer joked about the 74-year British drought after his semifinal win Friday.
"I know he'd like to win the first for British tennis since — what is it, 150,000 years?" Federer said, smiling.
But he doesn't plan to cut Murray, or the British public, any slack.
"I don't want to just give away a match. I will make sure I will make it as hard, as tough as possible for my opponent," said Federer, who is playing his fifth Australian Open final. "I'm ready to play seven times five sets. If I go three or four, that's great."
Murray's last match was on Thursday night and he said his rest leading up to the final will make him fresher than Federer. On top of that, he said he's gained maturity and experience since his last Grand Slam meeting with Federer, a straight-sets loss when he was just 20.
"I just feel physically more mature, mentally more mature," Murray said. "Just a lot more experience in these sort of situations now."
Federer agreed that Murray has adapted to the center court conditions and was more fit than the player who lost to him at the U.S. Open.
"He's consistent. He's one of the best return players we have in the game," Federer said. "He's been able to improve many things in his game that make it harder today to beat him."
The winner of the men's final earns $1.85 million and 2,000 ATP ranking points.
Regardless of the outcome, Federer will still occupy the No. 1 spot when the rankings are released Monday, entering his 268th week and matching Jimmy Connors at No. 3 in the all-time list for the total number of weeks on top.
Murray has risen to No. 3 by reaching Sunday's final, dropping only one set along the way in a run that included a victory over defending-champion and No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal, who quit in the third set of their quarterfinal due to a knee injury.
By winning the title, Murray would move to No. 2, where he spent three weeks last August.
Federer has said it is important for his state of mind to take the first set in a match, but Murray said he would not be concerned about being down a set early on.
"Guys have come back against him in the past," Murray said, shrugging.
Murray acknowledged that Federer is "probably the best tennis player ever" but said with two players at the top of their sport, a win could come down to a few key points and a little luck.
"If I play my best, I think I've got a good chance against anyone," Murray said.