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Jamie Murray and Heather Watson to thrill Wimbledon mixed-doubles final | Sport


Fans at Wimbledon love a bit of mixed doubles. It is the form of tennis the majority of them probably play the most and, as a result, the one they tend to identify with the most. Throw in the fact that a British champion is guaranteed this year and Sunday’s final is likely to be played in front of a packed crowd.

The No1 seeds, Jamie Murray and Martina Hingis, take on the defending champions, Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen, the ideal scenario for home fans still getting over the disappointment of Andy Murray’s quarter-final exit and the valiant effort of Johanna Konta, beaten by Venus Williams in the semis. Who to cheer for might be the biggest dilemma, but they should be happy whoever comes out on top.

It is the fifth time in six years that at least one Briton has been in one of the big five finals; the men’s and women’s singles, men and women’s doubles and mixed doubles. With Andy Murray winning the singles twice, in 2013 and 2016, Jonny Marray lifting the men’s doubles title in 2012 and Watson winning the mixed 12 months ago, this will be the fourth time in six years that a British player has won a Wimbledon title (Gordon Reid also won the inaugural wheelchair singles title last year).

If mixed doubles is still very much the poor relation of the five events – the winners’ prize money has not risen in the past three years and at £100,000 per pair is only £10,000 more than it was in 2004 – it is incredibly popular here. It helps that Murray and Watson have been doing well but with a player such as Hingis adding a bit of sparkle and class, the standard has been incredibly high. Winning mixed doubles titles may not be a reliable indicator of the health of the sport in this country but seeing home players do well at Wimbledon certainly will not hurt.

Sunday’s final, meanwhile, promises to be a classic. Murray and Hingis have not dropped a set en route, Jamie playing superbly and Hingis barely missing a ball, the scratch pairing immediately forming an understanding. It was Hingis who asked Murray to play, no doubt seeing a path to what would be a 23rd grand slam title, having missed out here last year when she and Leander Paes lost to Watson and Kontinen in the final.

Murray, who won two slam titles in 2016 with Brazilian Bruno Soares, has barely played any mixed doubles since he won the title here with Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in 2007 but when the call from the Swiss came, he did not think twice. “I haven’t really played that much in the last couple of years but for me it was a great opportunity to play with Martina,” Murray said after they had reached the final. “She’s an amazing player and has shown that all this week. I’m really glad I decided to play. It is great to be in a grand slam final and I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be a great occasion for us.”

Watson and Kontinen battled through a tough semi-final against No2 seeds Soares and Elena Vesnina of Russia to move within one win of a second straight title. Watson would be the first Briton to achieve that feat here since John Lloyd partnered Australia’s Wendy Turnbull to back-to-back mixed titles in the early 1980s.

Watson is well known to British fans but it is Kontinen who has been the star of the show throughout their run. The runner-up to Grigor Dimitrov in the junior singles final here way back in 2008, Kontinen was prevented from making a real run at a singles career by knee trouble but their loss was doubles’ gain. After winning here last year with Watson, the Finn and Australia’s John Peers, the former partner of Jamie Murray, won the ATP World Tour Finals last November, picked up their first slam title together in Melbourne at the start of this year and Kontinen is the men’s doubles world No1.

Murray is confident but taking nothing for granted. “It’s good news for us that there is another Murray in a final,” he said. “It is good to be back in the final. We played some amazing tennis. We are excited to be in the final. [But] we know both of them well, Henri hits the ball so hard so he is very difficult to play against and Heather is a really good doubles player. It is going to be a tough match but then it is going to be tough for them as well.”



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