Roger Federer has "been around the block," as he puts it. He knows how to handle the big moments, playing for major titles, for the record books, for an exalted place in tennis history.
Sunday's Olympic gold medal singles match is something new even for him.
In a game of fine margins, especially on Wimbledon's slick grass, Andy Murray is hoping the novelty of the situation will give him the slimmest of advantages when he plays Federer on Centre Court, just weeks after the Swiss No. 1 beat him to equal Pete Sampras' record seven titles at the All England Club.
"The one thing I hope on Sunday, he's not played for the gold medal in singles before, and most times when I played him, he's experienced the situations way, way more times than me," said Murray, whose head-to-head record against Federer is 8-8. With the exception of the Wimbledon final, all of those matches were played on hard courts. Three of them were Federer victories in Grand Slam finals.
"It's so rare for him to be in a position where he's trying to do something new because he's achieved so much in tennis. I hope that will even things out a little bit," Murray said. "It's going to be a tough match. Obviously I'll need to play great tennis to win."
By his own account, Federer was emotionally drained after his semifinal win Friday over Juan Martin del Potro, the longest best-of-three set match in Open history at four hours and 26 minutes. Few pundits, however, would speculate that the match, whose third set ended at 19-17, will detract from his performance on Sunday on a court where he has celebrated so many triumphs.
"Maybe that's what's helped me over the years, just being in that situation time and time again, you know, playing for something really, really big, playing for records, history books, big wins, titles, all that stuff," Federer said of his battle with Del Potro. "Maybe that's what kept me calm, to be honest, more than actually being out on Wimbledon Centre Court."
In the Wimbledon final, Federer lost the first set and won the next three for his 17th Grand Slam title. Murray has yet to win a major, and his camp includes Ivan Lendl, who also went 0-4 in his first four Grand Slam finals but finished up with eight major titles.
Federer, who won a gold medal in doubles in Beijing in 2008, said after the marathon against Del Potro that he planned to get a good night's sleep and warm up beginning Saturday.
"Hopefully you wake up and don't feel too stiff and on Sunday hopefully play a pretty good match. It's pretty straightforward from here, to be honest," he said with characteristic casualness.
Murray, who defeated Novak Djokovic in the other semifinal, was debating what he needs to change against Federer, in comparison to the Wimbledon final, where the Swiss raised his game dramatically when the roof closed because of rain. The Olympic final will be best-of-five sets, in contrast to the earlier rounds.
"There's a few things I'll maybe do differently," the third-seeded Briton said. "But tactically, I was pretty good in that final. I had my opportunities in the second set. I went for my shots on those chances. Just maybe didn't make the best shot selection."
Murray said it took him a few days to get over that loss, but he is now buoyed by the enthusiastic support of the British crowds, while enjoying the distractions of other Olympic sports that siphon away the kind of local scrutiny that targets him every year at Wimbledon.
"Now I can actually turn the TV on and watch all the other sports," he said. "I don't have to hear anybody talking about me. I can support all the other athletes. That's what's nice about it."
Federer is popular at any event, regardless of national loyalties. For all his success, he is acutely aware of the pain of losing, and the lessons that can be drawn from such disappointment. When one journalist asked him about his long list of defeated opponents, he responded:
"You make it sound like I've never been on the other side. I've been there plenty of times as well," Federer said. "I think you move on. You grow as a person and as a player. There's not only just negatives in a loss."