For many Andy Murray’s win against Mikhail Youzhny in the fourth round yesterday merely provided further confirmation that there has been something of a sea change in the aura and performance of the British No.1. Even when the momentum in a match goes away from him, as it did momentarily in the second set against the Russian, Murray still seems to be in charge overall. He suddenly seems to have matured as a player in all respects.
As Paul Hayward observed in his piece in The Daily Telegraph: “Pre-maturity – pre-Olympica and US Open – any dip in form might have prompted a collapse. These days the No.2 seed is so sure of his ability to blast his way past lesser men that he toys with them without even seeming to. Before his moodiness was dangerous. Now, he can slip in and out of anxious states without it wrecking his chance of winning.”
Hayward continued: “That second set against Youzhny was a tiny relapse which Murray corrected well, thus allowing himself a quick and harmless reminder of the bad old days when matches ran away from him. He was a top-two player visiting an old precipice for nostalgia’s sake. The sniff of danger stirred his senses, returned his mind to the job in hand and helped earn him his fourth straight-sets win here on the smoothest route to a grand slam final he is ever likely to take.”
James Lawton, in The Independent, was also full of admiration for the new Murray. One shot in particular made Lawton wonder whether Murray really was unfortunate to have been born into the same era as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
“Indeed, the cross-court forehand passing shot which left the Muscovite veteran Mikhail Youzhny shaking his head in bewilderment incited some claims that it may have been the best shot seen here since Federer produced his unforgettable backhand down the line at a pivotal stage of his 2008 losing final with Nadal.
“It broke the son of a Russian army colonel father and an economist mother with its force – it might have come from a howitzer – and the brilliance of his conception. It said that the reigning US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist was maybe at last stepping beyond the pressure of trying to prove here that, if he had been born with great talent, it wasn’t necessarily at the wrong time.”
Lawton went on to suggest that unlike in the case of the young British hope Laura Robson in the ladies singles, the euphoria surrounding Murray was completely understandable.
He writes: “Repeatedly he punched the air after shots of the most exquisite tracery and, as they cut away to nothing the hopes of Youzhny, they also reminded us that Wimbledon opinion does have a duty to step back from time to time and consider quite how randomly it draws the line between silly, patriotic daydreaming and the reality of a fully-blown master tennis player like Murray.
“It may be that Robson will emerge as a serious contender at the top levels but nothing in her performances here justified the kind of ordeal imposed upon her by her squealing, cheering fans.”
Giles Smith, in The Times, with tongue in cheek, reminds his fellow scribes of the responsibility they have to themselves and the nation when they build up Murray’s chances of ultimate glory to bursting point.
He writes: “All this banging on drums, all this excited admiration for Murray’s confidence, the assurance he now exudes, his promisingly bulked physique – we’re told it’s doing nothing to bring about the desired outcome. On the contrary, it could even end up derailing the project and sending it crashing down the embankment in a plume of steam. And then it will be on the conscience forever more of those of us who wrote or talked about Murray as a likely Wimbledon winner in 2013.”
The American coach, Nick Bollettieri, also writing in The Independent, thought Youzhny ran out of steam, but he thought he knew why. “The Russian has had some tough matches on the way through,” he writes, “in particular a see-saw five-setter against Vasek Pospisil, and I felt he just ran out of steam. But the thing about Murray is that he makes damn sure you run out of gas and he left Youzhny sitting on his ass out there on Centre Court.”
Sam Marsden, in The Daily Telegraph, blames the Prime Minister David Cameron for putting the mockers on Robson with his “best of luck” message. Apparently, he has been the kiss of death for many British sporting heroes, at the London Olympics and the Rugby World Cup.
“He has become the fan whose support spells doom for the chances of Britain’s sporting stars,” Marsden writes. “In echoes of last year’s Olympics, the “Curse of Cameron” struck again yesterday when Laura Robson lost at Wimbledon hours after the Prime Minister sent her a good luck message ahead of her fourth-round match.”
The Prime Minister sent a message to Robson on Twitter during his visit to Kazakhstan. It read: “Sending best wishes to Laura Robson, 1st Brit woman in 4th round Wimbledon for ages. Won’t see match as overseas – but we will be given updates.”
Marsden adds: “Fortunately, David Cameron did not offer his best wishes to Andy Murray.”
Oliver Brown, in The Daily Telegraph, sees how much defeat hurt young Robson. “Suddenly it seemed as if Robson needed her mother Kathy, still tending to the family labradors in Greece,” he writes. “And yet strangely, sympathies aside, it was perhaps encouraging to see how deeply this result hurt her. Not for Robson the idle platitudes about being proud of her progress, or learning salutary lessons, but instead a palpable ruefulness about letting slip a match she believed she should have won.”
Jim White, of The Daily Telegraph, felt Sabine Lisicki was a popular winner, against the No.1 seed and reigning champion Serena Williams in yesterday’s fourth-round matches, but wonders whether it is really “a result” for the Championships.
“And how the crowd loved the result she achieved: Williams’s defeat could not have been more gleefully greeted had it come about at the hands of Andy Murray,” he writes. “Though they ought to be careful what they wish for in the expensive seats. Without its muscular centrepiece, the women’s tournament has suddenly become emaciated.
“They may not appreciate it now, but how Williams – and her extraordinary amalgam of skill and strength – will be missed in what remains of this competition.”
Steve Tongue, in The Independent, is in awe of David Ferrer’s resilience and the mood swings of tennis matches. He writes: “One of the mysteries of tennis is how a player can find a match so difficult for an hour or more and then suddenly run away with it. David Ferrer, the fourth seed, has become an expert in the genre over the past few days, twice struggling and then reducing opponents to gibbering wrecks.”
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.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all