It is day four of the Olympics and gradually the wheat is being sorted from the chaff. Those who came to Wimbledon filled with the Olympic spirit and national pride but limited by a moderate world ranking are slowly being shown the door while those with serious intent are flexing their muscles.
Of those with their eyes on the medals, Andy Murray is looking rather good. He absolutely walloped Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 6-3 to reach the third round and even if the Finn was not so much flying as flapping furiously, it was still an impressive display from the Scot. He served well, he returned well and he was cracking his forehand with abandon.
He was, understandably, happy with his day’s work.
“I played well today,” he said. “He didn't start the match that well. Then he definitely played better in the second set. But I had the momentum for most of the match. I served well, especially in the second set. Didn't give him really many opportunities. I've hit the ball well so far in the tournament.”
Then again, he has done most things well so far this week. Following the same routines as he normally does during The Championships – getting the missus or a pal to drive him to work, heading for home as soon as his shift is finished – he is trying to replicate the normal Wimbledon environment, the one in which he thrives every summer in SW19.
“I try to do the same things,” he explained, “the same sort of practice beforehand, the same drills, right before I go out I do the same warm-up with the guys, try not to change much.
My girlfriend drove me in today. If anyone's coming in to watch, we drive. We park over the back of Aorangi. If nobody can do it, I'll just drive myself in. But, yeah, it's pretty much the same.”
Still only 25 years of age, Murray, then, is turning into a real creature of habit but before anyone puts him in carpet slippers and beige cardie, he is keen to point out that these routines are merely ways of keeping himself away from the hype and hoop-lah of a major tournament; these are not superstitions. Superstitions are different.
Superstitions are weird.
When Goran Ivanisevic finally won Wimbledon in 2001, one of his biggest delights was being able to eat something different for dinner. If he started a winning run eating lamb chops, he continued to eat lamb chops every night until he lost. And in 2001, he had to eat the same supper 15 times on the bounce (it was a rain-delayed Monday final, if you recall). Now, that is a superstition.
“I don't really have superstitions,” Murray said. “But I try and, practice, have the same meals well, breakfast anyway before matches. Occasionally when I'm on the court, I take the ball I've won a point with, I actually don't play with that ball. I put it in my pocket. But it's not something I do all the time. That's just something I do occasionally.
“I try not to be superstitious because, some people are. You know, if you use the same shower cubicle every day, when you go to use it, someone's in there, it can take time to have to wait to get like the same practice court, the same shower cubicle, the same practice partner, whatever, you need to well, you don't need to, but that's
just how I feel about it. It's better to know that whether I shower in the same cubicle or not has no bearing on whether I win a tennis match or not.”
He has made one drastic change to his routine, however – this week he will play mixed doubles with Laura Robson. Murray has never really got the hang of the mixed: welting the ball at a member of the fairer sex in order to marmalise her is not really his thing. But with a 16-strong draw, he knows that it only takes three wins to win a medal and four to win a gold. This is an opportunity too good to miss.
“I'd spoken to the guys about it before the tournament,” he said. “I was planning on playing mixed. Obviously, it would have been a lot of tennis to play. But like I'm sure a lot of the athletes are saying, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to try to win a medal at your home games. I wanted to give myself the best chance at that. That was why I wanted to play mixed.”
His main focus will, obviously, be on the singles and next up for Scotland’s finest is Marcos Baghdatis, the 6-4, 6-4 winner over Richard Gasquet. He has beaten the loveable Baggy four time in seven meeting and four times in the last five, the last time being just a handful of weeks ago here at Wimbledon, also in the third round. And if Murray continues in his current form, history may very well repeat itself.