Andy Murray and the British and Irish Lions stand on the brink of delivering one of the greatest weekend’s in British sporting history.
Murray plays world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon men’s singles final tomorrow looking to finally bring to an end a three-quarters-of-a-century wait for a home winner.
And this morning the Lions go head-to-head with a formidable Australia team, hoping to claim a first series win in 16 years.
The stature of the opponents they face and the weight of history against them ensures that if both are successful it will rival anything achieved even in last year’s awe-inspiring London Olympics.
Murray meets his old adversary Djokovic for the third grand slam final in four, having beaten the Serbian at the US Open last September, before losing to him at the Australian Open in January.
That victory in New York ended the nation’s 76-year wait for a major winner, but it is the fact that there has been no home winner of the men’s singles at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936 that has haunted British tennis.
Murray came closer than anyone to ending that spell last year when he lost to Roger Federer in straight sets.
He set up a second chance last night with another nerve-jangling win over Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz.
The Scot lost the first set on a tie break but broke the big-serving Pole early in the second set and hung on to close it out.
Then when trailing by a break in the third set, Murray reeled off five straight games to take command.
A controversial decision to close the roof, prompted by Janowicz complaining about fading light, could have disrupted Murray, but he broke the 24th seed early in the fourth and raced to victory, 6-7 6-4-6-4 6-3.
“I’m absolutely delighted with that, it was a very tough match,” said Murray.
“It was completely different to any match I’ve played so far. I’m relieved to get it done.”
In Australia, the Lions look to claim their own slice of history in Sydney’s ANZ Stadium this morning.
The 84,000-seater stadium – scene of England’s World Cup triumph a decade ago – is a fitting stage for the game that will decide what has been an epic series between the pair.
Warren Gatland’s Lions won the first game by two points before the Wallabies struck back to level the series, winning by just a point in Melbourne seven days ago.
The Lions last clinched a Test series in 1997, beating South Africa 2-1, and they know the pressure is intense for them to end that painful wait this morning.
Forwards coach Graham Rowntree said: “You can talk about four years ago, eight years ago, 12 years ago. It has been 16 years since we have had something like this.
“Lads like Alex Corbisiero know the history of the Lions, know the magnitude of pulling on the jersey and know about the statistics. We are all fed up with the 16 years stat.
“A win will deliver the series for the here and now. I am not too sure about the Lions’ future, it’s what we are desperate for now.
“Seeing how we’ve trained all week, crikey, we are ready for this battle.
“We saw the reaction from Australia (last weekend) after they beat us. Their captain James Horwill was crying.
“They threw everything at us and beat us by a point. We didn’t get our game going, and we know that.
“There is loads more to come from us and the guys are desperate to win. This is grand final rugby, the last throw of the dice with everything to play for.
“We have to go out and give it everything. This is the biggest game of our lives, as players and coaches.”
The Lions are minus their last three tour captains – Sam Warburton and Paul O’Connell through injury, plus the dropped Brian O’Driscoll – but Gatland will still send out a team containing more than 600 Test caps.