|Andy Murray could become the first Brit to reach the Wimbledon final since 1938. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)|
Murray has much on his side
Crowd favorite takes on ailing Nadal today
LONDON - Rafael Nadal’s left foot is bothering him, and that alone is giving just about every tennis fan in Britain hope that Andy Murray can finally end the nation’s Wimbledon drought.
They will play each other in today’s semifinals.
“I’m not worried about my foot,’’ said Nadal, who beat Murray in the semifinals at the All England Club last year and again at the same stage at the French Open a few weeks ago. “[With] the anesthetic there I don’t feel nothing. I don’t feel the pain.’’
Nadal has won the Wimbledon title the last two times he has played, in 2008 and last year, bringing his record to 31-2 since the 2006 tournament.
“Right now everything is to win. I have to enjoy the moment, play aggressive,’’ said Nadal, who has won 19 straight matches at the grass-court Grand Slam. “Only like this I’m going to have any chance to be in the final.’’
In the other semifinal, second-seeded Novak Djokovic will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The 12th-seeded Tsonga eliminated six-time champion Roger Federer on Wednesday, coming from two sets down to win in five.
But without Federer and his quest to equal the Wimbledon record of seven titles, much of the attention will fall on Murray.
The 24-year-old Scot is trying to become the first British man to win the Wimbledon title since Fred Perry in 1936 and only second to win at the All England Club in more than 100 years.
No British man has even reached the final since Bunny Austin in 1938.
Murray is 4-11 against Nadal, including 0-2 at Wimbledon.
“I just have to have a better game plan,’’ said Murray, who has reached three Grand Slam finals but lost them all. “Sometimes it comes down to strategy. Sometimes it comes down to having more experience.
“Just have to go out there and play well and serve well and believe and I’ll have a chance.’’
Although getting past Nadal at a Grand Slam tournament may feel like winning the title, Murray would still need to win on Sunday.
And that’s just what he’s waiting for.
“I don’t know what it would feel like. I don’t know how I would feel,’’ Murray said. “I know that it’s something that I’ve thought a lot about, something that drives me to work hard and keep training hard.’’
Nadal will have to worry about his foot as much as his opponent. Before playing Mardy Fish in the quarterfinals, Nadal said he had a painkilling injection to numb his foot.
“For me [this] is the last tournament in one month, or in one month and a half, so I have to try my best,’’ said the Spaniard, who is 4-2 against Murray in Grand Slams. “I’m in quarterfinals and I had to [use injections], and I’m going [to] do for semifinals, too.’’
In the other matchup, Djokovic will be the favorite.
The Serb started the 2011 season with 41 straight wins, including an Australian Open final victory over Murray. His perfect season came to end in the French Open semifinals, when he lost to Federer, but he has not dropped a match since.
“Grass court is not my favorite surface, but I still know I can play well on it,’’ said Djokovic, who needed four sets to beat 18-year-old Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic in the quarterfinals. “So it’s really hard to kind of compare my form, the present form, and the one two, three months ago. It’s different circumstances. It’s a Grand Slam.’’
Djokovic will also have a bit of added confidence against Tsonga after having beaten the Frenchman in the 2008 Australian Open final.
“I think a lot will depend from our serves,’’ Djokovic said of Tsonga, who was only broken once against Federer on Wednesday. “I need to serve well because that’s something that he’s going to do, for sure.’’
Tsonga is 1-1 in major semifinals, both coming on hard courts at the Australian Open, but his game is suited for the grass. He proved that Wednesday, becoming the first man in 179 Grand Slam matches to beat Federer after losing the opening two sets.
“At the moment, you don’t think about it,’’ Tsonga said of his mind-set after losing the second set. “You just think [that] you have to stay consistent and keep your serve, and that’s it.
“Then it comes true. When you are at two sets to one, you say, ‘OK, I can win another one.’ And then it’s the fifth set.’’