Murray hitting all the right shots
Briton Andy Murray is hitting all the right shots and saying all the right things as he prepares for his Wimbledon semi-final against Rafa Nadal on Friday with a host nation's hopes of a long-overdue men's champion resting squarely on his shoulders.
The 24-year-old has been imperious in his last two rounds against Richard Gasquet and Feliciano Lopez while champion Nadal's progress has been anything but stress-free, with worries over a foot injury that will need a pain-killing jab.
Waiting for the winner of the eagerly-anticipated repeat of last year's semi-final will be Serbia's Novak Djokovic or French heavyweight Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the man who shattered Roger Federer's hopes on Wednesday.
While Tsonga's extraordinary comeback means the expected showdown between the world's top four did not materialise as it did at the French Open, the semi-final lineup is still worthy of the 125th championships.
Photographs: Getty Images
Image: Andy Murray
'I believe I can win against him'
Murray, bidding to become the first British man to win Wimbledon for 75 years, looks comfortable in his role now and there was a relaxed air about the Scot after he finished off Lopez with three consecutive aces.
While he has lost 11 of his previous 15 meetings with Nadal, most recently in the semis at Roland Garros, Murray believes he is ready to inflict a first Wimbledon defeat on the Spanish powerhouse since 2007 -- a winning run interrupted only by Nadal's dodgy knees in 2009.
"I believe I can win against him. I had chances last year," Murray told reporters looking ahead to his third consecutive Wimbledon semi-final.
"I just have to have a better game plan. Sometimes it comes down to strategy. Sometimes it comes down to having more experience. I just have to go out there and play well and serve well and believe and I'll have a chance."
Image: Andy Murray
'It's always for me a dream to play in Wimbledon'
If it was not a Grand Slam, Nadal would probably be home fishing in Mallorca and resting the foot he injured in his energy-sapping last-16 match against Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro.
While scans have shown there is nothing seriously wrong with the foot, Nadal is clearly worried enough to require it to be "put to sleep" during his matches.
The 25-year-old baseline warrior was not at his best against Mardy Fish in the quarter-finals but with just two matches left before a well-earned month off, the French Open champion will be fighting his corner with his usual ferocity.
"For me it is the last tournament in one month, so I have to try my best," Nadal said. "It's always for me a dream to play here in Wimbledon.
"Last year I beat Andy here in the semi-finals, but it was a very close match, even if it was in straight sets. For sure I always enjoy playing these kind of matches."
Image: Rafael Nadal
Djokovic favourite to beat Tsonga
Djokovic, like Murray, lost his first two Wimbledon semi-finals but will be favourite to beat the enigmatic Tsonga.
The 12th seed will have to reproduce the firepower he unleashed against Federer for three sets to stand any chance.
Should Djokovic win, he would be guaranteed the world number one ranking whatever Nadal does against Murray.
The second seed will put that to the back of his mind, however, as he bids to add the Wimbledon title to the Australian crown he won at the start of a magnificent year.
The 24-year-old reckons he will have to step up his level though after spluttering against Australian teenager Bernard Tomic in the quarter-finals.
"Tsonga is very dangerous, he's been playing great in the grasscourt season," said Djokovic, who has a 5-2 career lead over the Frenchman.
"I'm aware of the importance of every match that I play. I'm very close to reaching the number one but, you know, I try not to think about that too much."
Image: Novak Djokovic
'I'm the type of player who likes these big moments'
Wise words, because as six-times champion Federer found out, Tsonga cannot be taken lightly.
The great entertainer has captured the hearts of the Wimbledon crowds this year and will come out swinging as only he knows how against Djokovic.
"I'm the type of player who likes these big moments...so I hope I can have some more," Tsonga smiled.
Image: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga