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By Clare Fallon
LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) - Andy Murray consigned one of Wimbledon’s longest-standing statistics to the scrapheap when he became the first Briton to reach the men’s final in 74 years with a 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-5 win over Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday.
Since Bunny Austin became the last home hope to reach the showpiece match in 1938, British men have lost in the semi-finals on 11 occasions.
Murray stayed focused, including in the third set when Tsonga’s game suddenly caught fire, to end that sorry sequence and the French showman’s resistance in two hours 47 minutes.
The match finished in confusion when Murray’s forehand service return on matchpoint was called out, even as the Scot was dropping his racket and putting his hands to his head in relief at having apparently won.
Murray challenged the call and the giant-screen replay showed the ball was in. Tsonga, waiting at the net to congratulate Murray, smiled and patted the Briton on the shoulder as the Centre Court crowd erupted.
The fourth seed will bid to become the first British man to triumph at the citadel of grasscourt tennis since Fred Perry in 1936 when he takes on Roger Federer, chasing a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title, in the final on Sunday.
“It was an emotional end to the match,” said Murray in a courtside interview. “I just managed to hang tough enough and I am so happy to be through.”
Murray looked to have the match under control with superb serving early on. In the second set he lost only two points on his serve and Tsonga seemed to be losing faith in himself.
Tsonga disappeared off court with the trainer for two minutes before the third set - saying later he had gone to stretch and “unblock my back” - and returned a new man.
He broke Murray and went 3-0 up, then kept the advantage and served for the set at 5-3, coming back from 15-30 down despite being hit in the groin at very close quarters by a fierce volley from Murray as the two men duelled at the net.
As Murray raised his racket in apology, Tsonga retreated to the side of the court and curled up in a ball on his knees, in obvious pain. When he recovered, he hit three quick winners to take the set.
Asked about the incident, Tsonga, a semi-finalist here last year, smiled.
“I will get my revenge one time,” he said.
Both men produced spectacular feats of athleticism, with Tsonga leaping over a courtside bin as he raced in vain to try to return a drop shot and Murray flinging himself headlong to the ground as he tried to convert the second of two breakpoints.
With the set apparently heading for a tiebreak, and the unwelcome prospect of a fifth set looming as the air grew chill, Murray, who had beaten the Frenchman five times in six previous meetings, produced some of his best returning as Tsonga served at 5-6 to break and seal victory.
Murray, the fourth seed, could have expected to face Rafa Nadal in the last four when the draw was made but the former champion made a shock exit in the second round.
Asked how he felt about ending Britain’s long wait for a male finalist at Wimbledon, Murray said: “A bit of relief, excitement, (it‘s) tough to explain; it was such a close match.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)