By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
It’s men’s semi-final day at Wimbledon’s Strawberries, Cream and Occasional Tennis Festival.
It’s a huge one for fans of Scottish tennis and fans of the conveniently-timed sudden interest in promoting British national identity. With Rafael Nadal currently picking the underwear out of his crack far away from Wimbledon, Andy Murray has a great chance to become the first British male to reach a Wimbledon final since tennis was played with oak rackets and wearing full dinner suits. Standing in his way is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a very talented French player who probably deserves to be taken more seriously that the Murray-Hype machine suggests.
I’ll be here all day to bring you the latest news, views and cynical observations from Wimbledon. Feel free to holler at me via the comments section below. Predictions about how Murray will get on are very welcome. You can also chat on Twitter where I’m @PaddyPowerAidan.
Result: Andy Murray (4) v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (5) 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-5
Result: Novak Djokovic (1) v Roger Federer (3) 3-6 6-3 4-6 3-6
6.52pm: Tsonga deserves immense credit for his part in this thrilling match. He played some great tennis at times, but just not often enough.
6.48pm: GAME, SET AND MATCH MURRAY! The Centre Court crowd erupts, but the celebrations are killed almost instantly as Murray’s cross court shot is called out. A quick review shows it caught some line and Murray gets the break he needed. It’s something of an anti-climactic way to end, but after 74 years it won’t matter much. He goes on to face Federer in Sunday’s final and without wanting to piss on anyone’s parade, he will need to play better and more consistently throughout.
6.44pm: Murray survives some suspect serving to win the game. Andy will get one more chance to break Tsonga and claim that place in the final. Otherwise it’s tiebreaker time. 6-5.
6.40pm: Tsonga holds despite some abysmal umpiring that cost him a more straight-forward victory. 5-5
6.36pm: Now it’s Andy Murray’s time to save two crucial break points. The Scot holds his serve to go 5-4 ahead. He’s only one game away from the final, but with Tsonga serving, it’ll be tough to seal it now.
6.30pm: Tsonga just about holds serve to make it 4-4. He saves two break points and it’s still in the mix.
6.25pm: Murray gets his nose back out in front to claim a 4-3 lead. Tsonga slips and hurts his hand, but it doesn’t look serious. Not nearly as serious as getting a whack in the plums.
6.21pm: Tsonga holds and in some style. All square at 3-3 in the 4th.
6.16pm: Tsonga breaks back! Some excellent stuff from the Frenchman and some strange stuff from Andy Murray and the BBC. Murray seems to be gesturing to his team moaning about something and the Beeb show a slow motion replay of Murray quite visibly saying ‘bullshit’.
6.10pm: Murray breaks to go 3-1 up. Don’t book the tickets just yet, but maybe it’s time to start looking at the Tube times for Sunday.
6.06pm: Murray finishes the game with a flourish to put himself 2-1 up in the 4th set. Tsonga looks like the player with the momentum and the Centre Court crowd seems muted – almost like they’re already making their arrangements for getting to SW19 on Sunday.
6.04pm: Tsonga is looking stronger this match goes on. Or as McEnroe puts it, he’s like ‘a big bear waking out of his slumber.’ Poetry and tennis insight from that man. 1-1
6pm: Murray starts off the 4th set by holding serve and a good deal of grunting. 1-0 in the 4th
5.54pm: GAME AND SET TSONGA! The Frenchman takes a ball in his punnet of strawberries, but shakes it off to win the game and get something in the sets column. This one is still in the balance, but Murray is still 1/7 to meet Federer in the final on Sunday. Tsonga takes a break, but after checking everything is still where it should be, he’s ready to resume. Andy to serve.
5.49pm: Murray keeps the set alive by holding serve. Now it’s Tsonga’s chance to close out the set.
5.44pm: Murray has another good effort in the ‘terrible challenges’ competition, but that’s about as good as it gets as Tsonga holds serve. 2-5.
5.41pm: Murray holds serve. Kim and Judy don’t look happy. 2-4
5.37pm: Some battling sees Tsonga through a tricky service game. Andy Murray wastes three break points to bring himself back into the set and it’s the Frenchman who is closing in on his first set of the match. Murray does however lay down a marker in the ‘worst challenge of the tournament’ category. Asking a shot to be checked that was in by 4 to 6 inches. 1-4.
5.29pm: Murray saves a break point and gets on the board in the third set. 1-3.
5.23pm: It’s much better from the Frenchman now and all of a sudden it’s Andy Murray who’s in danger of getting the bageling. 0-3 in the third set and Cliff Richard isn’t looking happy in the crowd.
5.19pm: Big win for Tsonga. He breaks Andy to love and maybe this isn’t the forgone conclusion centre court thinks it is.
5.17pm: He starts with a good service game to avoid a bageling. 0-1 in the 3rd set.
5.14pm: Tsonga needs to win this set to stay alive.
5.12pm: GAME AND SECOND SET MURRAY Tsonga wins his first point on Andy’s serve for three games, but it’s not enough to stop Murray claiming the set. Tsonga calls for the trainer, he may as well call for the A-Team. It’s all looking good for Murray and the hype-machine looks destined to reach new heights over the next couple of days.
5.08pm: Tsonga holds, but it leaves Murray serving for the set and a 2-0 lead in the match.
5.04pm: Murray holds serve to make it 5-3 and by my reckoning, he has won his last three service games to love. Impressive stuff.
5.02pm: Tsonga does well to win his service game with minimal ballsing it up.
4.59pm: Murray holds serve to go 4-2 up and he has this set at his mercy.
4.57pm: Murray breaks to go 3-2 up in the second set. He wasted two break points, but takes it on second deuce. His girlfrien, Kim breaks out in a beaming smile, something you don’t often see from people who are going out with gingers.
4.52pm: Andy wins his service game to love. Our hope of a second set fish-fingering is over, but the good news is Andy is playing very well. 2-2
4.50pm: Tsonga makes it 2-1. Andy has a little slip that’s no big deal, but we’ll hear a lot more about if he happens to lose this game.
4.46pm: Murray holds serve. 1-1. Someone will guarantee they can’t be fish-fingered after this game.
4.42pm: Tsonga holds serve to guarantee he can’t be bageled in this one either. Andy loses a challenge for a terrible challenge. 0-1. Never fear, we’ve still got two chances of a fish-fingering in this one.
4.35pm: GAME AND SET MURRAY! There’s an extra loud scream from the already excitable Centre Court as Muray holds his service and claims the first set. Convincing stuff so far.
4.33pm: Despite a couple of crap shots, Tsonga wins his service game and Murray will be serving for the set. 5-3
4.27pm: More good tennis from Murray. He’s 5-2 up now and looking very sharp.
4.25pm: Tsonga holds serve. 4-2 to Murray.
4.23pm: There’s a moments pause as there’s some shuffling around in the Royal Box. There’s immediate disappointment as it turns out it’s just someone returning from a toilet break and not Kylie getting into her hot pants.
4.21pm: Murray is taken to deuce on his serve after saving two break points, but he notches up his first and second aces of the game to close out the game. 4-1 in the first.
4.16pm: Tsonga holds serve to win his first game of the match to, at a minimum, avoid a 1st set bageling. He’s still on for a fish-fingering, which looks ruder written down than it was in my head. 3-1.
4.12pm: It’s impressive stuff form Murray as three games into a Grand Slam semi-final he hasn’t cursed. At least not loudly. Dominant stuff for Murray as he extends his lead. 3-0
4.09pm: Now it’s a strong start. Murray breaks Tsonga at the first time of asking, wheeling out a quality backhand and forehand en route to winning after going to deuce. 2-0
4.03pm: 1-0. Murray wins. Henman calls it ‘a strong start’, but it was adequate at best.
4.01pm: The game is about to begin. Murray to serve first.
3.57pm: I’m getting disturbing reports that a clown outside the All England Club was beaten up earlier and had his clothes stolen. I’ve no further information, but I think police will want to speak with this woman at some point:
3.55pm: The players are knocking up in glorious sunshine. Whoda thunk it?
3.50pm: John McEnroe is getting into the swing of the hype-machine and he points out that Tsonga hasn’t played well in this tournament. ‘Why are they even bothering to play this match?’ he pretty much says. Top hyping!
3.46pm: Golf’s world number 1, Luke Donald isn’t writing off the challenge of Tsonga, but equally that won’t stop him looking ahead to Andy Murray’s inevitable showdown with Roger Federer.
Against Roger it’s going to be tough, but he’s beaten Roger in the past, so this is a great chance to do it.
3.45pm: You can take our lives, but you’ll never take our top-spinning forehands.
3.37pm: There’s about 20 minutes to go until the players are due out on court and it’s time to start cranking up the hype machine. We now know who
Andy Murray the players involved in the second semi-final will face in the final. Is that knowledge likely to affect how they approach the game.
3.34pm: News comes through that the weather is less crap than it was earlier. Notice I didn’t say ‘good’ or anything remotely positive. That means Murray and Tsonga will at least begin with the roof open. But that’s no guarantee it will finish that way. At least the threat of Cliff Richard singing has reduced.
3.32pm: For a man the commentators would have you believe isn’t far off needing a Zimmerframe to move around the court, Federer looks in good shape for a man who has just played a Wimbledon semi-final. The post-match interview doesn’t reveal a whole lot other than that.
3.28pm: GAME, SET AND MATCH FEDERER! Brilliant stuff from Roger Federer. He closes out the game after a mini-wobble to defy the odds and Old Father Time. He’s within touching distance of his seventh Wimbledon title and equaling Sampras’s record. Djokovic couldn’t get his backhand going and made too many mistakes throughout.
3.24pm: Djokovic holds firm after deuce to make it 3-5. Federer is serving for the match.
3.19pm: There’s something ruthless about Federer’s service games at the moment. That’s 2-5 and back to back service games won to love for the Fed Express. Nole serving to stay in the Championship.
3.15pm: Djokovic shows his scrapping qualities to make it 2-4 and effectively stay alive. He saves three break points that would have given Federer the chance to serve for the match. Great spirit. Both players waste a challenge with frivolous challenges.
3.09pm: Federer is machine-like under pressure and holds his serve to love. He has got the look of determination in his eyes and it’s going to need something special for Djokovic to save the match from here. 1-4
3.08pm: Djokovic stops the leaking for the moment and holds serve. 1-3.
3.02pm: Federer holds serve and makes it 0-3. Djokovic is going to need to pull something out of the bag and it’s better not be another shiny tracksuit top. Federer is now 1/7 to win this one
2.59pm: BREAK! Federer breaks and it’s 0-2. The champ is on the ropes.
2.56pm: Federer rubs a pinch of salt into the wound and holds serve to get on the board in the 4th set. 0-1
2.50pm: GAME AND SET FEDERER! Great stuff from Federer and a bad moment for a huge error from Djokovic. The six time winner breaks the reigning champ thanks to a missed overhead smash and may have got a little excited because he immediately goes for a comfort break. No room for error for Nole now. Federer nips into favouritism and he’s now 4/6 to win this one
2.44pm: Federer saves a break point to hold on after being brought to deuce. 4-5 in the third, but it’s notable the drop shot is working about as well as virgin jokes at a monastery for both players.
2.41pm: Djokovic holds serve. 4-4
2.37pm: It’s really heating up now and Federer holds serve to make it 3-4. There’s little to seperate the two, but Nole is still favourite to reach another Wimbledon final at 4/9.
2.34pm: Epic stuff in easily the best game of the match so far! Federer and Djokovic play out a couple of cracking rallies, but it’s Nole who comes out on top after been taken to four deuces. Federer had a couple of chances to break, but can’t and that makes it 3-3.
2.23pm: Federer wins his service game in convincing fashion to make it 2-3. It had just a whiff of that air of dominance that defined some of his best performances at SW19.
2.20pm: It’s 2-2 as Djokovic wins his service game.
2.17pm: 1-2 in the third as Federer holds serve. Good news for the entertainment value as the rallies seem to be getting longer, but that’s bad news for Roger’s dodgy back.
2.14pm: Djokovic holds his serve, but he’s made work hard for it. Federer has a break point but fails to capitalise and Nole holds on after being taken to double deuce. 1-1 in the third. The Serb also burns a challenge thanks to a bad serve and questioning of the call.
2.08pm: Roger makes a strong start to the set and closes out his service game with ease. 0-1.
2.03pm: GAME AND SET DJOKOVIC! Djokovic almost allows himself a smile as he levels it up on sets. It’s been a strange game so far. The players have fluctuated wildly, going from brilliant to brutal within a few minutes. It’s fascinating, but not a classic. Yet.
2pm: Federer dominates his service game to make it 5-3. A little too late to save this set?
1.57pm: Djokovic holds serve and even closes by getting a challenge correct. It’s 5-2. He celebrates with a sit-down and a quick munch on some food. He knows how to party.
1.53pm: It’s over to BBC1 just in time to see Federer hold. It’s 4-2.
1.49pm: Djokovic holds serve to make it 4-1 and both players trudge grumpily to their chairs. It looks like it’s going to go 1-1 in sets, but neither player will be too happy with how they’re playing.
1.48pm: Federer is taken to deuce, but holds serve at the first time of asking. 3-1 in the second.
1.43pm: Djokovic has stepped it up this set and looks in total control. Federer’s ground strokes lack aggression and it only looks like a matter of time before he levels this match up. 3-0
1.41pm: BREAK! Djokovic breaks to make 2-0. Federer’s consistent finding of the net would have been great at Euro 2012, but today it’s useless.
1.38pm: Djokovic holds serve to take the lead in the second set. 1-0
1.36pm: It’s clearly ‘witty banter day’ at the All England Club as one of the centre-court spectators shouts out ‘I love you, Roger.’ It’s a man’s voice I think, but I haven’t ever heard Mrs. Federer talk, so I can’t be sure.
1.33pm: 1st SET TO FEDERER It’s good from Roger as he closes out the set with ease. He’s serving brilliantly and Djokovic has no answer.
1.32pm: The players exch