Murray's moment of destiny as 77-year quest for a successor to Perry may be about to end
The warmth of the ovation that will greet Andy Murray when he walks out on to Centre Court this afternoon will be a reflection of the distance he has travelled in the affection of the nation since he first tried to win the Wimbledon championship.
It seems now that his defeat by Roger Federer, and his tearful speech at the presentation ceremony 12 months ago, was a full dress rehearsal for the command performance he promises to deliver against world No 1 Novak Djokovic on the most prestigious tennis stage in the world today.
His first night nerves from last summer are a distant memory. 'I definitely feel calmer today than I did on the Saturday last year,' said Murray.
'Sometimes nerves and stress can take a bit out of you physically, so the calmer you can stay in the next 24 hours or so will help as well.'
Millions will be drawn from family barbecues or cut short an outing to the coast to bear witness on TV or by listening to radio commentary to the 26-year-old Scot's quest.
He is determined to end a 77-year search to find a successor to Fred Perry, the last British man to win the Gentlemen's Singles at Wimbledon.
And evidently, Murraymania has spread from Aberdeen to Penzance. Yesterday, hundreds of fans congregated at Aorangi Park, on the perimeter of the All England Club, to clamour for his autograph or have their photograph taken with him on their smart phones at the conclusion of his light practice session.
He signed as many pieces of paper or oversized tennis balls as possible, while still managing to look bemused at being at the centre of such fanatical interest.
'When I am on the court the support has been unbelievable and that is what you need if you want to try to win these events,' said Murray, as he sat on a park bench, a five-minute walk from Centre Court.
'It would make a huge difference if the crowd are right on my side. Any tennis player wants to win Wimbledon and the closer you get to it the more you are obviously going to think about it. But the most important thing is not to look ahead.
'At no stage of the match can you get too ahead of yourself; against most players that is dangerous, against someone like Novak that is even more dangerous because he is extremely fit and doesn't give anything away. I am going to need to earn every point tomorrow.'
Even so, Djokovic expects to experience a lonely existence this afternoon.
'It's normal that most of the crowd will be on his side,' he said.
'Murray is a local hero. He has a big chance to win Wimbledon after a long time for this nation. I'm ready for it.'
Murray is just one week older than Djokovic - both men born in May 1987 - and the scope of their rivalry, which began in boyhood in junior European tournaments, can be gauged by the fact they are competing against one another for a third consecutive Grand Slam final, when both have been fit.
'When we were younger we were more friendly,' said Murray. 'But it's hard now playing big, big matches with a lot on the line. You can't be best of friends when that's happening. I hope when we finish (playing), it will be different.'
As usual this past fortnight, Murray will be driven this morning to Wimbledon in his VW Polo by his friend Rob Stewart from the £5.5million mansion he shares in Oxshott, Surrey, with his girlfriend Kim Sears.
He will meet his coach Ivan Lendl, along with the other members of his loyal team: Dani Vallverdu, his friend and assistant coach, fitness trainers Jez Green and Matt Little and physiotherapist Johan de Beer.
Lendl will watch Murray play through his repertoire from the back court, wearing a baseball cap with a racket to hand.
At 53, the Czech-American is old enough to be Murray's father but he has proved to be an inspirational appointment by Murray 18 months ago.
He retired with eight major championships but, like Murray, had lost his first four Grand Slam finals.
And Lendl never wanted to befriend those he competed against, such as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Boris Becker.
He just wanted their respect and he won that by moving the parameters by which professional tennis players had to be judged as he appointed a hitting partner, physiotherapist, racket stringer and nutritionist.
On the players' lawn on Friday, Becker, working here as a BBC TV pundit, held out a meaty hand to Lendl and said, dryly: 'Hi, Ivan. I'm looking forward to describing your facial expressions in our broadcast.' Lendl, deadpan, replied: 'Don't hold your breath.'
Becker retorted: 'I won't ... I know there won't be any.'
As Murray surged back from two sets down to Fernando Verdasco in his quarter-final on Wednesday, then withstood a ferocious storm of serving from Jerzy Janowicz in Friday's semi-final, all those crowded into the British player's guest box continually jumped to their feet to applaud his tenacity under duress.
Except Lendl. He did not move as much as an eyebrow as he stared inscrutably down the court.
Lendl has been an invaluable asset but he rates his contribution in the humblest terms.
'I think you have to have the cooperation of the entire team and an understanding with the player of how you do things and why you do things,' he said yesterday.
'The player has to believe in it and, if he doesn't, it's pointless trying.'
Lendl is different from most coaches; he appears in working hours, then disappears.
'I've played golf every other afternoon,' he said.
In the evenings, he dines with his wife, Samantha.
'I do have dinner with Andy at some places but we haven't done so during Wimbledon. It's his call.'
Yesterday, Green explained how they had deliberately planned to keep practice, and the post-hitting regime, as economical as possible.
'Less is more,' said Green. 'We just had to fine-tune him a little bit. He hit with Ivan and Dani and they talked about tactics for the final. We wanted to get him home by mid-afternoon. He's ready. He just needs his body waking up tomorrow with a warm-up and to get a feel for the ball. There is nothing much more we can do.'
On Friday night, Green, Little and physios, De Beer and Mark Bender, who has been brought aboard for his expertise in dealing with back injuries, like the issue that kept Murray from playing in the recent French Open, spent more than 90 minutes on Murray's post-match recovery process at Wimbledon. Sushi was ordered in.
'Andy warmed down on a bike to get his pulse slowly down, while refuelling at the same time, before the physios took over,' said Green, who is responsible for the efficiency of the boot camp Murray attends near his home in Miami, Florida, each December - three weeks of intensive training to lay the foundations for success.
On Friday night, there were muted congratulations from Team Murray.
'We said: "Well done, good performance" - all that kind of stuff,' said Green. 'We shared a few jokes and talked a bit about the Janowicz game. But there is still one more match to play.'
It might be described as the most important match of Murray's life.
Of the 18 times he has played against Djokovic, Murray has won seven but, perhaps crucially, he defeated his Serbian rival in their only match on grass, at the Olympics here on Court No 1.
'I know what worked against him at the Olympics and, hopefully, some of those things will work again,' said Murray.
Destiny is calling him like never before and a nation awaits the performance of a lifetime. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/tennis/article-2357555/Wimbledon-2013-Andy-Murray-facing-moment-destiny.html?ito=feeds-newsxml