Don’t go telling everyone about this – and lean in a little closer to the screen so you can hear me whisper – but things are looking up for Andy Murray. We don’t want to tempt fate or get ahead of ourselves here, but the world No.2’s draw has opened up nicely after a day of shocks, upsets and medical emergencies.
When the draw first came out before The Championships, a grateful nation sighed in unison. Phew: at least the Muzz has escaped the “quarter of death”, that bit containing Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Even so, he was still lumped in with such grass court masters as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic (either of whom he could have met in the quarter-finals). This was not going to be easy.
But then, in an afternoon that can only be described as carnage in predominantly white, Tsonga pulled out with a gammy knee mid-match against Ernests Gulbis and Cilic never even made it to the court when his hinges packed up, too. And we all know what happened to Rafa on Monday. They were falling like journos off a bar stool and it was only teatime.
Murray, of course, is still only in the third round after his 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 win over Lu Yen-Hsun – there is still an awful lot of work to do before he can start thinking about quarter-finals and beyond. But, even so, Scotland’s finest must be thinking that someone, somewhere is smiling on him.
Murray knows Lu of old. He first met him at the Beijing Olympics back in 2008, a time when the Scot was the bright young star and Lu was the world No.77 and little known outside Asia. And Lu won. In the first round. Murray was gutted.
He got his chance to level the score with Lu earlier this year, walloping him in straight sets in Indian Wells but Murray knew only too well that he could not take the man from Chinese Taipei lightly when they got to SW19. Back in 2010, Lu reached the quarter-finals here, beating Andy Roddick as he did so, and happily telling the world that he developed his lightning reflexes and speed around the court by chasing chickens. His father used to breed the birds for local restaurants and someone had to catch the little blighters – and little, nippy Yen-Hsun was volunteered to do it.
“I can catch a chicken,” he said cheerily. “I can show you. Yeah, serious. I can catch a chicken. I know is very tough work. They always working between 1:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the morning, like very early. That time the chicken cannot run away because they cannot see.”
And in broad daylight – the sun was shining, which was something of a novelty this summer – he was catching Murray on No.1 Court. He may have been conceding 73 ranking places, four inches in height and 22lbs in weight, but he was trading blows with the No.2 seed like a regular heavyweight. He was hitting the ball more cleanly than the local hero and he was hitting the lines and the corners with alarming accuracy.
At the same time, Murray’s first serve was stuttering and spluttering a little and he had yet to find his range. But then, in the space of a handful of points, everything changed. Lu had three break points in the fifth game, Murray jump-started that first delivery and served his way out of trouble and suddenly the confidence drained from our chicken-catching chum. His serve went AWOL and his forehand frayed at the edges. And that took care of the first set.
Lu made a better fist of the second and third sets but, against Murray in his pomp, it was not enough and after two hours and one minute, the world No.2 was into the third round safely (and safely was the operative word on a day of drama). To paraphrase Kipling: If you can keep your feet when all about you are losing theirs, you might just become a Wimbledon champion, my son.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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