Andy Murray may be able to keep a lid on his emotions but the loud, patriotic British crowd can’t. Their man is into the semi-finals of the Olympic tennis and whatever happens on Friday, they know he will be back here on Sunday playing for a medal. With luck, he will be vying for a gold, but even if he loses his next match, he will be through to the bronze medal play-off. That must be worth a cheer or two.
“It's great,” Murray said, trying – and succeeding – not to get over-excited. “That was the goal coming into the tournament. It's nice to get the opportunity. If I win one of the next two matches, I'll give myself a shot at the medal. Obviously winning the first one is the most important thing just now. Obviously going to be a tough match against Jo or Novak. I need to be ready for it. But, yeah, it's very exciting”.
Scotland’s finest and Britain’s best eased into the last four with a 6-4, 6-1 win over an ailing Nicolas Almagro. The Spaniard came into the tournament with a nagging shoulder injury and by the end of the first set, he was clearly in trouble. The trainer did his best to ease the pain but his ministrations and manipulations could not help and, unable to serve with any power or authority, Almagro was a sitting duck as Murray picked him off with a flurry of winners and aces.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came along to sample the atmosphere and before long, they, too, were carried away with the patriotic fervour, joining in with the Mexican wave and cheering loudly.
The royals appeared to be sitting in regular seats and the look on the face of the lady in front of them when she turned round to see the future king and his wife sitting shinbone-to-shoulder with her was priceless. Until that point she had been merrily waving her Union Flag and chatting away. And then she turned round to see what all the fuss was about. Suddenly she looked as if she had just been slapped with a wet haddock. “I don’t believe it!” she gasped to her partner.
Down on court, Murray was not getting into the party spirit; he was deadly serious. He may be playing very well at the moment but there is still an awful lot of work to do between now and Sunday evening.
Before they began, the Scot had said that he would need to serve well and get off to a good start if he was to get the better of the world No.12. Murray did all that and more. He cracked down 15 aces and dropped just four points on his serve. He followed that up with 27 winners and just seven unforced errors – and two of them were double faults. He was very, very good and Almagro was playing with one arm.
No wonder, then, that the two sets were wrapped up in just 59 minutes.
“It was good,” Murray said. “I served well. From my side of the court, I played solid on serve. In the second set, he was struggling with his serve. He obviously had a problem with his shoulder so it was much easier for me to return. So, from my side, it was good and important that I got off the court quickly. I've obviously got mixed later. If it had been a long one, we had a long mixed as well, that wouldn't have been great for tomorrow.”
Ah, yes, the mixed doubles. From now on, Murray will be working a double shift as he ploughs his way through the singles draw and launches his mixed doubles campaign with Laura Robson. As he rattled through his media commitments, he was keen to get back to the locker room to refuel and rest before he was due back on No.1 Court later in the evening.
“There's no sort of rest mentally,” Murray said. “Obviously when you're playing Wimbledon, you get the day off. That always helps because you can relax a little bit and get away from it. Whereas here pretty much every day we've played. That's what's challenging, is making sure each morning you get up and you're ready to perform.
Because it is such a quick match with the three sets, any mistake can cost you. Physically it's easier [than Wimbledon]. Mentally, I don't know whether it's easier or not. It's just different.”
But it is not that different – Murray is through to his second semi-final in SW19 in five weeks and his fifth in all. Stand by for the crowd to raise the roof if he can make it two finals in five weeks.