The hurricane of unstoppable tennis which hastened Rafael Nadal’s departure from the 2012 Championships late on Thursday evening fits neatly into the famous old saying that it is an ill wind which blows nobody any good. Sympathy from fellow professionals for the second seed’s unexpected demise at the racket of the 100th-ranked Czech Lukas Rosol was tempered with the realisation that the bottom half of the Gentlemen's Singles draw had just opened up rather invitingly, and for nobody more invitingly than Andy Murray.
As the fourth seed Murray is theoretically now the favourite to progress into what would be his first Wimbledon final, though Murray himself would be the first to protest that such thinking was more than a mite premature. Though the hype machine is already churning away merrily, he is no different from any other athlete in refusing to speculate (officially at least) beyond his next match, and that next match this afternoon gives promise of setting him a searching examination.
His opponent is Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, the sort of cheerful, outgoing type who cannot fail to make you smile as he bounds around the court, and who has showed promise of returning to his form of a few years ago. In 2005, he was chosen as Cyprus's Man of the Year, rising within 12 months to his highest world ranking of eight after marching to the final of the Australian Open and the semi-finals at The Championships in 2006.
It was at the 2006 Wimbledon that Murray first played, and lost in straight sets, to Baghdatis. They have split their six contests, meeting in Cincinnati, Paris, Rotterdam, and Tokyo, but the last occasion, at Brisbane in January this year, was convincingly won by Murray at a cost of just four games, confirmation that he has come on quite a bit in the past six years. But the British No.1 is in no doubt that even if he does send Baghdatis packing this afternoon, it still remains quite a hike to the final a week tomorrow.
Others from the lower half of the draw embarking on that hike with more than a smidgeon of optimism are a quartet of Americans, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and Brian Baker. Roddick we already know about following his three journeys to the Wimbledon final and he has stilled any expectation of a repeat by saying he is no longer capable of, as he puts it, "running through walls" like Messrs Djokovic and Federer. Fish rose to be the top-ranked American last year, rather late in his career, and is playing his first tournament since treatment for an irregular heartbeat, while Querrey, who could be Murray's next opponent if both are successful, is also on the mend following elbow surgery last year, a year after claiming the grass court title at The Queen’s Club.
But it is Baker, a qualifier, who is the real story of a comeback from heartbreak. Between November 2005 and July last year the 27-year-old Baker, a former junior world No.2, underwent five surgeries (three hip, one elbow and one hernia) and started this year ranked 458. But so well has he done that he will break into the top 100 by the end of The Championships. He faces France's little-known Benoit Paire and has strong hopes of further progress. Fish takes on Belgium's Davis Cup player David Goffin, Querrey is in a battle of the boomers with this year's Queen's champion, Marin Cilic, and Roddick takes on the hardest task among the US brigade against the seventh seed, David Ferrer.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, officially the best hope after Murray of getting to the final from this section, should progress against Slovakia's Lukas Lacko, but everybody needs to watch out for another Lukas, the one called Rosol, after what he did to Nadal. Today he takes on Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber.
A trio of Italians are the eye-catching group competing in the Ladies' Singles today. Sara Errani, this year's French Open runner-up, tackles the wild card from Kazakhstan, Yaroslava Shvedova, the 2010 French champion Francesca Schiavone is up against the Czech Klara Zakopalova and Roberta Vinci goes against qualifier Mirjana Lucic of Croatia.
But perhaps the finalist in this section of the Ladies' draw will come from one of three of the higher seeds, defending champion Petra Kvitova, second seed Victoria Azarenka and that 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. All should win with some comfort today, but after Nadal who knows?
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all