Ahead of his quarter-final against Andy Murray, Fernando Verdasco need only scroll through his phone book for a certain Rafael Nadal to gain some expert insight on how to beat the world No.2 on the lawn of Centre Court.
Asked if he had given his fellow Spanish left-hander a call, Verdasco responded with a wry smile on his face: “No, I didn’t. But maybe I call him today.”
Considering that Nadal has beaten Murray on all three occasions they have faced off at Wimbledon, it is a call worth making for Verdasco. He may have finally found some form with his new racket here on the grass, dropping just one set in the 13 he has played during The Championships, but taking on Murray is a different proposition altogether to those he has faced so far.
“Andy has a great game on grass and he is a great player on every surface,” said Verdasco, who has slipped from No.7 in 2009 to his present ranking of No.54. “I always have said he is a tough player. It’s always hard to play against him, it’s always hard to beat him but I will just try to make my game and try to be the best I can and try to get also the little chances that I will maybe be able to have.”
Remarkably, this is the first time this year that Murray will have taken on a left-hander. The Brit brought in Swedish doubles world No.55 Johan Brunstrom for practice on Tuesday, placing a particular focus on service returns.
“I don’t mind playing left handers,” said Murray. “I grew up playing with my brother, so it doesn’t normally take me that long to adjust. It’s just the serve that takes me a while.”
Murray will watch some video footage of Verdasco’s fourth round win over Kenny De Schepper ahead of their clash for a bit of extra scouting but he is already well familiar with the Spaniard’s game.
The pair first met at the Segovia hard-court Challenger in Spain – an event won by a 17-year-old Nadal - almost ten years ago in the first round, Verdasco winning 6-1, 6-3. Since then, Murray has won eight of their nine meetings, although the sole victory for Verdasco famously came in the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2009.
“I know him fairly well,” said Murray. “I have practised with him a little bit and I know his team fairly well. Darren [Cahill] obviously helped him quite a bit so I know him a bit through that as well. I get on pretty well with him. He’s a nice guy, pretty relaxed.
“He spends a lot of time in the gym, he works hard, and he has just switched coaches to Richie Sanchez who has done a very good job with most of the guys he has worked with. They’ll have their tactics ready so it will be tough.”
When Murray took more than two hours to arrive for his press conference after beating Mikhail Youzhny in the fourth round, there were fears that something was up after he was seen clutching at his side a number of times. Murray’s simple two word response to reporters at Aorangi Park on Tuesday eased the concerns: “Back’s fine.”
Murray has made swift progression through the draw to the last eight, winning all his matches in straight sets. It may have been a more comfortable path than some anticipated originally when the draw was made but it has both its good and bad sides.
“There are loads of different ways you can look at it,” said Murray. “I mean, you can make sure you are not underprepared for any of the matches, but I don’t feel like I do that anyway. Maybe when I was younger it could have been an issue.
“But also I can tell by the way I get asked the questions by the press that everyone is sort of getting ahead of themselves and expect me to win these matches. So that obviously adds pressure. There are positives and negatives to it.”
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
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