Andy Murray must overcome stress and British expectations as much as French opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his best chance yet to reach a first Wimbledon final.
The fourth seed thrilled an expectant Centre Court crowd by fighting back from a set down to beat Spaniard David Ferrer 6-7 7-6 6-4 7-6 in a rain-disrupted quarter-final on Wednesday and set up a last-four meeting with fifth seed Tsonga.
Murray, seeking to become the first British man to reach the Wimbledon final since 1938, said that to cope with the huge expectations he ignored outside opinion and focused on his inner circle.
“Subconsciously, I’m probably pretty stressed out right now but I try not to show it,” he told a news conference.
“Obviously, the pressure is there, if I thought too much about it, it would become too much, but if you shield yourself and listen only to those around you, you can manage.
“And they give you the confidence you need,” he added.
Murray had been drawn to face Rafa Nadal, his conqueror in two of his previous three semi-finals, but the Spanish world number two suffered a shock second-round defeat.
“I’m in a good position (to reach the final). Whether it’s my best chance I don’t know but I want to push on,” Murray said.
“Jo’s a tough opponent, he’s served very well in this tournament, he’s one of the best grasscourt players in the world,” the Scot told a news conference.
Murray gradually wore down tenacious seventh seed Ferrer in a confrontation lasting nearly four hours after a nail-biting second-set tiebreak in which he fell 5-2 behind and saved a set point at 6-5 down before taking it 8-6.
He clinched the third set with an ace before a short rain interruption with the score 5-5 in the fourth and he won the decisive tiebreak 7-4, sealing victory in three hours 52 minutes with another ace.
The Scot, who sent down 18 aces altogether, said it was tense in the dressing-rooms during the rain interruption.
“At the break I went for a shower and threw some cold water on my face. It was a very intense atmosphere,” he said.
“It was a huge match for both of us. Coming off (court) at a critical stage, if I lost that fourth set it was g oing to be a very tough match.”
In a clash packed with intriguing long rallies, Murray fought back from 5-2 down in the first set after a dominant start by Ferrer, a tenacious performer with four titles to his name this year.
Ferrer, who had previously dropped just one set in the tournament, had a set point in the first set at 5-4 but the Scot fended it off before the Spaniard came through to win the tiebreak 7-5.
“I knew it would be a tough match, very different to my other matches in the tournament,” Murray said.
“There were long rallies in tricky conditions, it was cold at the start, then it got warm, it got quite windy and up to 5-3 (down) in the first set I wasn’t playing well, but after that I thought I hit the ball well.”
Each player had a break in the second set with Ferrer setting himself up to serve for a 2-0 lead after Murray chipped wide, one of his few errors at the net.
However, Murray broke straight back as Ferrer uncharacteristically put two successive balls wide playing to his opponent’s backhand.
Ferrer said Murray had been in impressive form and played more aggressively than him.
“Andy plays the ball low and takes you to the limit,” the Spaniard said.
“Of course he has chances to win Wimbledon and he deserves to. The top four, including Andy, have shown through the years to be above the rest, generally reaching the semi-finals (in all tournaments).”