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Andy Murray triumphs in five-set thriller with Verdasco

A doubled-handed backhand by Andy Murray.
by Alix Ramsay
Wednesday 3 July 2013
We had been warned. A couple of days ago, Andy Murray had alerted all who cared to listen to the fact that Fernando Verdasco would be no pushover in the quarter-finals and that no matter how excited or over-eager the Centre Court Crowd were getting, the result would not be a foregone conclusion.

And did we listen? Did we heck as like. For three hours and 27 minutes, we sat on the edges of our seats and fretted. Sometimes we panicked. Sometimes we may even have said a rude word or two as the world No.2 and Britain’s great hope came back from two sets down to beat Verdasco 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5. And only after three hours and 26 minutes, when Scotland’s finest held three match points, did we dare breathe.

“Verdasco is a very, very good tennis player,” Murray said. “Very good at tennis. He's playing very well this week. He's extremely dangerous when he's on his game. Yeah, that's it. I mean, Verdasco's a very good tennis player.”

And Verdasco did everything that Murray expected he would – he welted his serve, both first and second delivery, and he hit his forehand like a Howitzer. Murray stayed with him for most of the first set, grabbed the early lead and then let it slip in the second and the raced through the third. Phew, the 15,000 on Centre Court thought. Oh, but Murray had barely got started. The fourth set was terrifying as he had to stave off four break points before finally breaking Verdasco and as for the fifth, it was heart-stopping. But Murray survived.

 He ran, he chased and hunted down every ball he could possibly lay racket string to. He was more aggressive in the third set and he was dogged – or as dogged as it is possibly to be from 10 feet behind the baseline – in the fourth. In the fifth, he was serving second and anyone of a British, and particularly a Scottish, persuasion could scarcely bear to look.

In the Royal Box, Sir Alex Ferguson was trying to contain himself – and it wasn’t easy. When he was managing Manchester United, he was not one for keeping his emotions to himself as he stood on the touchline but parked behind HRH The Duke of Kent in the poshest of posh seats at Wimbledon, he had to mind his Ps and Qs. As a result, his face – which normally has a cheery, rosy hue – got redder and redder as the pressure built. When one Murray backhand fizzed across the court and into the tiniest of tiny spaces beyond the Spaniard’s reach, Fergie was on his feet. Briefly. Then he remembered where he was and quickly sat down again to return to the difficult business of trying not to turn puce before the fifth set was done.

“It was a tough situation,” Murray said in his understated way. “The second set was a bad set of tennis for me. I was 3‑1 up and then made some bad mistakes, poor choices on the court. Then I turned it round really well after that.

 “I think when you play more and more matches and gain more experience you understand how to turn matches around and how to change the momentum of games. That can be tactical and sometimes it can be your opponent. But often, you need to be the one making the change. Maybe when I was younger I could have lost that match. But I think I've learnt, yeah, how to come back from tough situations more as I got older.”

 Whether the watching public has learned how to handle those tough situations is anyone’s guess. To think – we have Andy Murray through to his fifth consecutive semi-final where he will meet the 6ft 8in Jerzy Janowicz. And you know what that means: we have all of this to go through again on Friday. You have been warned.

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