Inevitably, many observers saw shades of the old Andy Murray, never mind Tim Henman, in the way the British No.1 put his fans through the emotional wringer in Wednesday evening’s five-set thriller against the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
Martin Samuel, of The Daily Mail, saw it that way but with a significant difference. He wrote: “This was a return to the Murray of old, the young man who would put his fans through the shredder, teetering on the brink of elimination, hearts in mouths, sinews stretching, as he fought to stay in the game, the set, the match, the tournament.
“The difference is that, here, he came through. That might not have been the case a few years ago. Murray was fragile, physically and mentally, back then. Now he is robust.”
Mike Dickson, in the same newspaper, didn’t enjoy the ride too much, but he sensed that Murray’s parents might have been more confident of the outcome than the rest of us.
“The US Open is an ocean away and takes place in September,” writes Dickson, “while in the Olympics Murray was one of many athletes on whom hopes were pinned. This is different and the result was the kind of occasion in which Tim Henman used to specialise, taking everyone with him on a ride that turns your innards to mush.
“Tony and Jane Henman [Tim’s parents], sitting anonymously in the stands, would have understood what the British No.1’s support team were going through, but then the likes of Judy Murray and her ex-husband Willie, sitting a row apart, would know better than anyone what an extraordinary competitor their son is.”
Oliver Brown, in The Daily Telegraph, commented on the coincidence that Murray, as at last year’s US Open, brought about a famous comeback in the presence of the man who almost invented the word – Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager.
“Ferguson has suddenly emerged as the unlikely good-luck charm, the comforting presence whose watchful gaze appears to galvanise Murray at the most pivotal moments. Unlike in New York, Sir Alex chose not to gatecrash the press conference with tartan accomplice Sir Sean Connery, but the 71-year-old has emerged as Murray’s emotional crutch in extremis.”
James Lawton, in The Independent, introduces a sobering thought – well, actually, a few of Novak Djokovic’s – into the nation’s dearest wish that Andy Murray ends the 77-year wait for a British men’s winner. Commenting on the thoughts of the Serbian No.1 seed, he writes: “They were just a little chilling in the reach of their ambition and they followed hard on the kind of crisis management that separates not only great players from the merely good but also those who believe they are born to rule the world in one way or another.
“Djokovic has been displaying this tendency of thought for some time now and yesterday he again produced the natural authority of a gunfighter while resolving a little pressure of his own.” Lawton quotes Djokovic as saying about his already phenomenal game, “I know I have a quite complete game but I still feel there is room for improvement. That’s something that excites me for the future. I can’t give you a number out of 10, but I will say there’s something I feel I can do better.”
Ivan Speck, in The Daily Mail, reports on the solidarity displayed by the Poles, Jerzy Janowicz and Lucasz Kubot, and some very un-tennis like behaviour at the conclusion of their historic quarter-final on No.1 Court. “What could not separate the pair was their admiration for and empathy with each other,” writes Speck. “Their warm hug at the end lasted fully 30 seconds and preceded the most extraordinary spectacle – surely a first for Wimbledon – of the players swapping shirts.
Apparently, it was Kubot’s idea. He said he remarked to his fellow countryman as the embraced at the net: “Let’s exchange [shirts], let’s make our tennis more famous, more popular and show everyone that Poland is on the tennis map.
Kevin Garside, of The Independent, was clearly in awe of Janowicz’s serving power. He writes: “The society for the prevention of cruelty to tennis balls might also have something to say about the violence imparted by Janowicz , who detonates hellish power with those crazily long levers.”
There was further action more commonplace on a football field than a tennis court in the spectacular fall of Juan Martin Del Potro in the opening game of his quarter-final against David Ferrer on Centre Court – or as football commentators would say, “the big Argentine had gone to ground.” The truth of the matter is that the Argentine did anything but go into hiding. Far from it.
Alan Fraser writes in The Daily Mail: “He had arrived on court with heavy strapping on his left knee after a slip here last week. He fell again. Not just any old fall but a spectacular arms-and-legs-flailing dive, with pike. ‘Like a footballer,’ he said, smiling no doubt, thinking about one of his Boca Juniors but he lay there like the rugby player his father, Daniel, used to be. No rolling about in fake agony. The pain was real.”
Nick Bollettieri, the American coach, in his column in The Independent, likes the match-up between Sabine Lisicki and Agnieszka Radwanska, favouring the former. “Radwanska is seed four against Lisicki’s 23, but I don’t see those numbers counting for squat when they step out on that court this afternoon. In fact, I would have Sabine down as the favourite, and why wouldn’t you? After all, this is the woman who took on Serena Williams in a wild-west shootout and won.”
Theo Merz, of The Daily Telegraph, took a look at The Queue, and made a surprising discovery from someone who has inhabited it for many years. He writes: “Geraldine Goldsmith, a nurse from Somerset who has been coming to The Queue for 12 years, was talking to those pitched around her like they were old friends, but they had met only that morning. ‘It can be a lot of fun in the Queue,’ she said. ‘You get to know people. And sometimes you go away and think you’ve had a more interesting time than at the tennis’.”
Marina Hyde, of The Guardian, is intrigued by the BBC’s penchant for montages in their Wimbledon programmes. She writes: “The BBC is currently running several montages daily – in fact, it is currently running several montages in Today at Wimbledon alone, with last week’s day of injury pull-outs naturally forcing immediate deployment of the Casualty them tune. It’s the ‘Say What You See’ school of incidental music, so I do hope Catchphrase’s Roy Walker is invoicing them for the creative philosophy.”
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