It will be Murray’s third successive appearance in a Grand Slam final following his defeats to Novak Djokovic at this year’s Australian and French Opens. For once Murray will be the favourite. In all 10 of his previous Grand Slam finals – eight of which he has lost – the Scot has faced higher-ranked opponents. Indeed, this will be his first final against an opponent other than Djokovic or Roger Federer.
Raonic, who is the world No 7, earned his place in the final with a 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Federer, who lost in the semi-finals here for the first time.
It will be Murray’s third Wimbledon final – he lost to Federer in 2012 and beat Djokovic in 2013 – and one that the 29-year-old will relish. “The older you get you never know how many more chances you will have to play in Grand Slam finals so you want to make the best of any opportunity,” he said.
If Murray faltered in his quarter-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who pushed him to five sets, there was barely a moment when he looked in trouble against Berdych. Wimbledon semi-finals have not always brought the best out of Murray – he had lost in four of his six previous appearances at this stage – but on this occasion he looked as solid as the Bank of England, which seemed appropriate given that the bank’s Governor, Mark Carney, was among the guests in the Royal Box.
Bjorn Borg, who saw Murray pass his total number of Wimbledon victories earlier in the tournament, and Sir Alex Ferguson, who was in New York to watch his fellow countryman win his first Grand Slam title four years ago, were among the other guests who witnessed the world No 2 write Fred Perry out of another page in the history books. In reaching his 11th Grand Slam final Murray passed Perry’s British record of 10 following the abolition of Wimbledon’s Challenge Round in 1922.
Sunday’s meeting will be a repeat of the final of the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club three weeks ago, which Murray won after three hard-fought sets. Raonic said at the time that he would be looking for a swift rematch and has been as good as his word.
“It was a very tough match,” Murray recalled. “I was down a set and a break but I managed to turn it around. He’s playing probably the best grass-court tennis of his career.”
Murray, who has won all 11 grass-court matches he has played so far in 2016 and is undefeated since his reunion with Ivan Lendl, has won his last five meetings with Raonic. He also won both of their previous Grand Slam encounters, though the Canadian ran him close in the semi-finals of this year’s Australian Open before suffering an injury which scuppered his chances.
In beating Berdych Murray had a tough act to follow on Centre Court for the second time in three days. On Wednesday his quarter-final against Tsonga had followed Federer’s dramatic comeback from two sets down against Marin Cilic. Federer again preceded the Scot on court, though on this occasion the Swiss was unable to provide the result that most of the 15,000 crowd had craved.
Berdych, who was attempting to reach his second Wimbledon final after losing to Rafael Nadal in 2010, won six of his first 10 matches against Murray, but this was his fifth defeat in succession to the Scot. Murray who admits that Berdych used to “bully” him with his physical strength, has become stronger in every sense in recent years. In particular his more aggressive game style makes it much more difficult for the Czech to dictate points against him.
Murray was quickly into his stride, breaking at the first attempt, though Berdych gave him a helping hand with three forehand errors and a double fault. The Czech broke back immediately – for the only time in the match - but dropped serve again at 3-4 under the pressure of Murray’s damaging returns. Within 36 minutes the Scot had wrapped up the first set, completing the job with an ace.
Both men had break points early in the second set, but it was Murray who made the breakthrough in the seventh game when Berdych put an attempted drop shot in the net. Two games later Murray broke again to take the set, converting his second set point with a thumping forehand pass down the line.
Murray, whose win secured his qualification for the year-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London, broke again in the fourth game of the third set as Berdych put a forehand wide. The Czech pushed hard in the following game only to be beaten by one of the shots of the tournament. Berdych played a good drop shot, but Murray raced into the net and not only got to the ball but played a superb lob which landed just inside the baseline.
Berdych fought to the end, but the world No 9 did not force a single break point in the deciding set. At 5-3 Murray went to match point after forcing Berdych into a backhand error and the Scot wasted no time completing his victory, after an hour and 58 minutes, as the Czech was outrallied once again.
“It was a good match today,” Murray said afterwards. “The middle part of the second set was really key. He had a few chances to go up a break and then I broke in the following game - and that was big. To make a Wimbledon final is a good achievement and I’ve got one more to go on Sunday.”
Berdych, who said Murray deserved his victory, expects the Scot to win the title. He said the serve would be Raonic’s best chance but added: “Andy is one of the best at eliminating big weapons like that. He actually likes to play these big guys and come up with a creative game that breaks their rhythm. That’s why I feel he can do it.”
By Paul Newman