By Howard Fendrich
AP Tennis Writer
LONDON — The 11th Grand Slam final of Andy Murray’s career will be unlike any of the others in at least one way: The opponent will not be Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.
Murray, the 2013 champion at Wimbledon, reached his third major title match of 2016 with a no-nonsense 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory against 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych in the semifinals Friday.
Supported by thousands of his countrymen at Center Court, Murray broke serve five times and played cleanly as can be, committing only nine unforced errors, 21 fewer than Berdych.
On Sunday, No. 2 Murray will play No. 6 Milos Raonic, a Canadian making his debut in a Grand Slam final.
“Obviously, first time I’ll play a Slam final against someone that isn’t Roger or Novak. So, yeah, that’s different,” Murray said. “But you never know how anyone’s going to deal with the pressures of a Slam final. So just have to go out there and concentrate on my side. Do what I can to prepare well for it and see what happens.”
Might be a refreshing change.
That’s because while he did defeat Djokovic for both the 2012 U.S. Open championship and the 2013 Wimbledon championship — famously becoming the first British man to hold the trophy in 77 years — Murray has lost all eight of his other previous major finals.
That includes a pair this year: the Australian Open in January, and the French Open in June, both against Djokovic.
Overall, Murray is 2-5 against Djokovic, and 0-3 against Federer with a major title at stake.
Not that there’s any shame in that.
After all, Federer holds the record of 17 Slam trophies, and Djokovic has 12.
During this tournament, though, the No. 1-seeded Djokovic was beaten in the third round by Sam Querrey, and No. 3 Federer lost his semifinal Friday against Raonic 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
When Berdych was asked whether he thinks Murray might win the title, he replied: “Definitely, he can. The fact that probably his biggest rival, Novak, is not in the draw anymore definitely helps.”
Murray remembers not really having time to process that he was about to play in his first Grand Slam final before losing in straight sets to Federer at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Now that he’s 29, he relishes the last-Sunday opportunities more than ever, no matter the foe.
“I guess the tournaments start to mean more to you the older you get, and you start to appreciate the history of the events probably more as you get older. When you’re 18, 19, you’re probably not as aware about those things,” Murray said. “I never take it for granted. I know how difficult it is to make the finals of these events — and how hard they are to win.”