Murray stands on brink of history
Amid the carnage around Centre Court on Friday evening as Andy Murray's cross-court forehand fizzed past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to take him into the Wimbledon singles final, one man remained emotionless and motionless in his seat as all around they jumped and hugged.
We know Ivan Lendl well enough by now not to expect him to have high-fived his way down the Royal Box. So deadpan is Murray's coach that even his portrait in the tennis Hall of Fame has smiled more recently.
But the message the old warrior was sending out to his young charge was clear: why the big party?
To a nation on starvation rations since Bunny Austin became the last British male in a Wimbledon singles final 74 years ago, Murray's achievement in fighting through to a showdown on Sunday with Roger Federer was something to be simultaneously delighted and disbelieving about.
Andy Murray (centre) warms up alongside coaching staff Dani Vallverdu and Ivan Lendl (right) ahead of his Wimbledon men's final match against Roger Federer on Sunday. Photo: Getty
Lendl, a man who lost his first four Grand Slam finals and was two sets down in his fifth before coming back to win a remarkable eight, has the perfect perspective to tell Murray different.
Making finals is one thing. Making them count is quite another.
Austin's fate is a pertinent if sepia-toned case study. Having won his semi-final back in 1938 he was then horribly mangled by Don Budge in the championship match, winning just four games in his straight-sets defeat.
Murray, Lendl might well tell him, must be as resolute and single-minded as he himself was in finally winning that French Open final of 1984 rather than a Bunny in the headlights.
Lendl, of course, only had to contend with the weight of his own fearsome expectations. On Sunday Murray will have most of a nation glued to his exploits - in living rooms from Peterhead to Penzance, on radios in cars and kitchens and through smartphones wherever they can be waved.
For once this summer there will be no 50 shades of grey. Everyone will be watching, everyone involved.
This is a sporting occasion that is more than just sport, a game of tennis that will draw in people who thought themselves forever immune to Wimbledon's very particular charms.
You can sense it in the omens that are doing the rounds in pubs and on Twitter - Virginia Wade won the ladies' title in the Queen's Silver Jubilee, so Murray must be fated to win the gentlemen's during Her Majesty's Diamond ding-dong; that in the summer the Olympics come back to Britain, so too must the famous old gilt-edged pot.
A personal favourite is one of the more convoluted ones: Fred Perry turned 25 on 18 May 1934, and two months later won the first of his three Wimbledon singles titles; Murray turned 25 on 15 May this year, and so...
Like all omens, they make convenient little mention of their own contradictions. The Golden Jubilee back in 2002 brought nothing but a semi-final defeat for Tim Henman (from a chippy Australian, to boot); the London Olympic year of 1948 saw Bob Falkenburg take the title back to the Hollywood royalty of the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
Perry played in trousers more formal than players today wear to the Wimbledon Winners' Ball.
The sensible will look for auguries instead in the statistics that separate Murray and Federer - or, in the case of this tournament so far, bind them together.
So far this fortnight, both men have played 22 sets. They are at 63.3% and 66.6% on their first serve, have hit a remarkably similar 237 to 222 winners and 103 to 88 unforced errors and both lost less than ten games on their own serve.
The reason Federer is slight favourite with most sage judges is not the last two weeks, nor the overall head-to-head between the pair, which has Murray standing at eight wins and Federer seven.
It is those previous meetings in Grand Slam finals, both won by Federer without Murray taking so much as a single set, as well as Federer's 23 previous Slam finals.
Then there is that near peerless record in SW19 - seven finals in eight years, with six golden titles and the only loss coming in the greatest Wimbledon final of all time.
Federer is not only the finest grass court player in history but a king who has made Centre his very own court. On Sunday he will have far more support than anyone hunting a homegrown hero has any right to expect.
So why then do Lendl and the rest of Murray's entourage believe that this time it can be different, that a man with 16 Grand Slam titles to his name can be usurped by a pretender who has previously only been flattened and deceived?
Dig a little deeper into Federer's magic numbers and the edifice shows its first cracks.
Federer, having won all but two of his first 14 Grand Slam finals, has now lost five of the subsequent nine.
It is three long summers since he last triumphed at Wimbledon; in each of the last two years he has gone out in the quarter-finals, and to Tomas Berdych and Tsonga - fine players, but neither eventual champions nor Grand Slam winners.
Federer is a month shy of his 31st birthday. Only two men in the Open era have won the Wimbledon title in their 30s: Rod Laver, way back in 1969, and Arthur Ashe in 1975.
The Federer of 2012 is still fully capable of the sublime tennis that made him the most popular player of his era. But, like all geniuses, his powers are not immune to the passing of time.
Perry, Laver, Borg and Becker; all virtuosos, all reduced to supporting roles by the end. If ever you were to take on their spiritual son Federer in a Wimbledon final, now is the moment.
He has been brilliant at times, not least in the first and third sets against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, and in the annihilation of Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets and just 92 minutes in the quarter-finals.
But Djokovic was far from the form that made him champion 12 months ago, and Youzhny is so much Federer's patsy (14 meetings, 14 defeats) that you expect him to prostrate himself when they toss for serve.
In his third round match against 29th seed Julien Benneteau, Federer was two sets down and staring into the abyss until the Frenchman froze; in the fourth against Xavier Malisse he required the regular intervention of the trainer to keep his body and title shot on track.
For all the weight of history on Murray's shoulders (286 Grand Slam finals have passed since a British man last won one) Federer has records of his own to worry about.
A win on Sunday would pull him level with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw at the top of the all-time Wimbledon titles list; it will also make him world number one again at a stage in his career when most thought it far beyond him.
Murray must start well, serve like a howitzer and keep his concentration from first to final point. He must target the Federer backhand and escape his forehand's cross-hairs.
More than that, he must reduce the dramas of that Tsonga semi, Ferrer fright and the 11.02pm finish versus Baghdatis to mere footnotes in a far grander tale.
If he can, the scenes on Centre last Friday will pale far, far into insignificance.