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Federer-Murray rematch at Wimbledon to decide Olympic champion

LOCALS IN LONDON

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WIMBLEDON, England — There will be mania among the picnickers on Murray Mount and a proud contingent of raucous Brits in Centre Court far more rowdy than those polite tennis fans who show up for a typical championship Sunday at Wimbledon.

Andy Murray gets a do-over at the All England Club — and he's going to need all the help he can get.

A month after losing to the man who dominates on this very grass, it's a Roger Federer-Murray rematch for Olympic gold.

This is Federer's first shot at an Olympic medal. It's Murray's umpteenth chance to show he really does have it in him to prevail when the pressure is greatest.

And Murray might finally have everything perfectly lined up to win the big one. The hard-luck Scotsman is playing at home, with the Union Jack adorning the left sleeve of his Olympic outfit, and a rockin' crowd chanting "GB!" as it tries to will him to victory once again.

"It's been an amazing month and one of the best of my career," Murray said. "The support that I have had over the last month, after Wimbledon, I really needed it. All the times that I have lost in a Grand Slam final, I've had a tough time afterward for a few months. But coming here with the motivation of playing in the Olympics and with the support that I have had has been all the motivation that I needed."

Everything points to a memorable second Sunday of the London Games: At Olympic Stadium, Jamaica's Usain Bolt goes for his second straight Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters. Across town at O2 Arena, Olympic men's all-around gymnastics champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan chases another championship in the individual floor exercise.

Also Sunday, women make their Olympic debut in boxing. And Serena Williams tries for her second gold medal in as many days when she teams with sister Venus in the women's doubles final against the Czech Republic.

The Wimbledon scene will be wild for a closing day that has been sold out for months ahead of what turned out to be the best possible men's pairing as far as organizers are concerned — and it was sold out before these two even took the court for the first time in their memorable July four-setter.

Federer beat Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to match a tournament record with his seventh Wimbledon title and 17th major victory.

Now, Federer has guaranteed himself an Olympic medal to hang alongside all those shiny plaques and plates in his trophy case. But gold would be all the sweeter for Federer as he takes on Murray three days before his 31st birthday.

Thanks to Federer, Murray fell to 0 for 4 in Grand Slam finals.

Last month, he became the first British man to reach the Wimbledon final since 1938. Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, is the only other player to drop his first four major finals during the Open era.

When Murray wins, he's the pride of Britain. And when he loses, he's the choking Scotsman.

Federer projected after Wimbledon that Britain's tennis poster boy would indeed win a Slam someday. For now, capturing a gold medal for the friendly hosts of the London Games would go a long way for Murray and his psyche.

"I am so happy to be in the final," Murray said, "and I will try to go one further."

Whenever Federer walks onto Centre Court at Wimbledon, it could become another epic match in a career full of them.

Yet Federer's legs might still be feeling his marathon semifinal match. The world No. 1 played for 4 hours, 26 minutes Friday to defeat Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 3-6, 7-6 (5), 19-17 in the longest three-set men's match of the Open era.

Several hours later, Murray did his part to set up what should be a fine show of finesse and shot-making Sunday. Murray beat No. 2 Novak Djokovic of Serbia 7-5, 7-5.

Federer knows just what to expect from the atmosphere, too.

"Look, he got amazing crowd support in the Wimbledon finals," Federer said. "I was able to handle that. But there's never a guarantee. I don't know how much the crowd, you know, plays into the outcome of the match really because he's such a great player anyway."

Murray figures why not make it two for two while he's at it. He also advanced to the mixed doubles final Sunday.

"A medal is a medal," he said Saturday. "It doesn't matter what it's in — singles, doubles, mixed."

Perhaps Murray truly feels that way, but the 13,000 spectators who will pack the grandstand realize that an upset of Federer will lift the weight of the entire United Kingdom off Murray's fragile back.

Even Murray Mount won't be the same Sunday. A grassy hill, the other lawn fills up in a hurry for Wimbledon — many of the fans having camped out all night for the chance at a grounds pass to watch matches on a giant television screen or move around to the outside courts. Those passes aren't available now.

After Murray lost in the Wimbledon final, a lone Scottish bag pipe played solemnly outside. Murray sure could go for more festive music this time around.

"It could go either way," Lleyton Hewitt said Saturday after the Aussie and partner Samantha Stosur lost to Murray and Laura Dobson in the mixed doubles quarterfinals. "A lot has to do with how Roger pulls up tomorrow. He has obviously had the wood on Andy in big matches, so he's going to be pretty tough to beat again."

Murray, and the entire United Kingdom, know that far too well.