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Tennis: Murray poised to end Britain's 77 years of pain

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Spanish Civil War started, Gone with the Wind was a publishing sensation and Jesse Owens spectacularly defied Hitler and the Nazis at the Berlin Olympics.

It was 1936, and it was also the year that Fred Perry won Britain's most recent Wimbledon men's title.

Now, 77 years on, Andy Murray is poised to end that longing at the All England Club where 12 months ago his campaign ended in a tearful final defeat before the pain was eased slightly by Olympic gold on the same storied Centre Court.

Having also added the US Open last year, Murray knows that this could be his best Wimbledon opportunity.

"With each year that passes, you kind of know what sort of stuff you can and can't do, and what's going to get you in the best mindset for the tournament and physically get myself in the best shape possible," he said.

"I'm experienced enough to deal with it and go into Wimbledon with no issues."

Murray, 26, heads into his eighth Wimbledon, buoyed by a third Queen's grasscourt trophy and free of the back injury which forced him to sit out the French Open.

He will also go into the tournament riding a wave of national sympathy after his tearful response to losing the 2012 final to Roger Federer prompted a dramatic reassessment of the country's only player in the world's top 200.

Suddenly, the granite-grim image of the muscular Scot softened into something altogether cuddlier, far more in keeping with the genteel expectations of leafy, south-west London.

But he is desperate to keep the lid on complacency, aware that standing in his way are seven-time champion Roger Federer, two-time winner Rafael Nadal, fresh from a record eighth Roland Garros title, as well as world number one Novak Djokovic, the 2011 champion.

"Just because I won the US Open it doesn't mean I'm going to do great there or because I played well on the grass last year. There's no guarantees at all in sport," said the world number two, who has been on a constant upward curve at Wimbledon.

As a gangly teenager, he made the third round on his 2005 debut, the last 16 the year after, the quarter-finals in 2008, followed by three successive semi-final runs before his breakthrough to the 2012 final.

Federer, meanwhile, the holder of a record 17 majors, can become the first man to win eight Wimbledon titles and go one better than Pete Sampras.

But he will be 32 in August while Sampras won the last of his Wimbledon titles as a 28-year-old in 2000.

An eighth victory for the Swiss would make him the second oldest champion at Wimbledon in the Open era, just behind Arthur Ashe who was six days short of his 32nd birthday when he triumphed in 1975.

Federer, who is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his first Wimbledon title, insists that he can approach the tournament free of worry.

"Ten years ago I went into Wimbledon with so much pressure, even though I had lost in the first round the year before," he said.

"In terms of needing to prove my point that I was a legitimate Grand Slam contender, I had incredible pressure. Now, ten years later, I know Wimbledon, I know my way around and what I need to do to perform well."

Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion, played down his chances of a third title in London even as he was still celebrating his historic eighth French Open victory.

The Spaniard is worried over how his left knee will cope with the strains of the grass courts, a fear prompted by his bitter-sweet relationship with the tournament.

Nadal had to skip the 2009 championships through injury while, 12 months ago, he was sent packing in a second round shocker by 100th-ranked Czech Lukas Rosol.

That shattering defeat forced Nadal off the tour for seven months and he missed the Olympics as well as US and Australian Opens.

"I am going without having trained on grass and it is a surface that you have to understand, learn once again and know how to play the points and focus in the right manner," said 12-time major winner Nadal, who has seven titles since his return in February.

For a man who is top seed, and the defending Australian Open champion, Djokovic heads for Wimbledon overshadowed by talk of Murray's and Federer's bids for history and the ongoing condition checks on Nadal's knee.

The 26-year-old hasn't played a grasscourt warm-up, opting to rest after his marathon five-set loss to Nadal in the French Open semi-finals.

Djokovic beat Nadal in the 2011 final for his only Wimbledon title.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130619/tennis-murray-poised-end-britains-77-years-pain