A nation heaves a sigh of relief: Andy Murray is safely through to the quarter-finals after beating Marin Cilic by three sets to love and three warm-ups to nil. Lummy, that was fraught.
It was not that Murray, the No.4 seed and man of the moment in British sport, was in any danger, especially not once he had wrapped up the first set on Monday evening. It was just that no one was sure when, if ever, the match would actually finish. The weathermen, the voices of doom around these parts, had forecast rain followed by more rain for much of the week. Playing on No.1 Court, sans roof, it meant that Scotland’s finest could have been stuck in the fourth round for days.
They began at tea-time on Monday, glancing at the skies as they started their first warm-up of the encounter and feeling their way into the match in a chill and swirling wind with the constant threat of rain hanging in the air. Unsurprisingly, both men were a little tentative at first until finally, after 47 minutes, Murray got the telling break of serve he needed to edge his nose in front 7-5. That was his signal to set off at double quick time and get himself to within a point of a 4-1 lead … and then it rained. That was it for the night.
Fortunately, Murray was in no mood to hang about when he was called back to the court at noon on Tuesday. He dutifully went through his five-minute warm-up as heavens above dripped lightly (cue a lot of discussion between official-looking people while Murray and Cilic sat and watched the rain fall) and then, in a matter of seconds, he was 4-1 up. Five points later, they were off again as the wet stuff got wetter.
Almost an hour later, they came back for yet another warm-up while, yet again, the spots of rain fell gently over the second biggest show court in town. This time, as Murray served like a cannon and moved like a whippet on wheels, there were no more interruptions and no chance for Cilic to get a toehold in the match. Murray was on the move and nothing – not the weather nor the world No.18 – was going to stop him.
“It's tough,” Murray said, looking fresh, relaxed and very pleased. “Obviously in matches you kind of can build momentum and build leads and then when you stop, once you come back out again, you feel like you're starting off from square one. But I did well today. He started the third set well. He had a few chances. I came up with some big serves. I served very well in the third set especially. But, yeah, it's never easy.”
Now, Murray is a man of many talents but no one has ever accused him of being a diplomat. The Scot is intelligent, polite and quite a wag, but if you ask him a straight question, he will give you a straight answer regardless of the repercussions. It is just the way he is made.
But when the press pack pressed him on the issue of the scheduling, Murray was tact itself. Despite the fact that he was the home nation’s best chance of winning the title in 76 years and despite the fact that those voices of doom from the London Weather Centre had promised two sodden weeks in SW19, our hero did not think he should be allowed to play all his matches under the Centre Court roof.
“I don't deserve to play all my matches on Centre Court,” he said simply. “Someone like Roger does. “It's not a bad thing playing on the outside courts. It's just when the conditions are bad it's not ideal to be out there because matches can last for two, three days, and then you get a backlog. But, I don't think just because you're from that country you should necessarily get preferential treatment, but I hope that I play my next few matches on Centre. I don’t mind where I play. I just wish the weather was a bit better.”
So maybe that’s it – maybe that is what the new victory celebration is all about. The pointing to the heavens gesture that he has made after every win here has had the press room abuzz: what does it mean? So far, Murray has not even told his management company what the two fingers pointing to the sky indicates but perhaps he is just putting in a request to whoever is in charge upstairs – please turn the taps off.