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What the papers say

Andy Murray approaches the net
by Clive White
Saturday 28 June 2014

Whatever happened to those hairy rollercoaster rides the British No.1 used to take us on? Not Andy Murray, of course, but his predecessor Tim Henman.

If nothing else, life was never dull with our Tiger. The collective pulse rate on Centre Court and No.1 Court may remain critically low during Murray’s matches these days, but that’s not to say the crowd aren’t elevated by his tennis, which yesterday reached sublime levels against Roberto Bautista Agut.

“The fans were not simply cheering their man yesterday, as he cruised to a magnificent 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory, they were gasping in wonderment at some of the strokes flowing from his racket,” wrote Simon Briggs in The Daily Telegraph. This against a man who was “winning a grass-court tournament in the notoriously unpronounceable Dutch precinct of ’s-Hertogenbosch. Here he looked positively allergic to the green stuff.”

Not every British fan can nowadays sit back and relax when watching their No.1, though, and Matthew Engel in the Financial Times felt “a sense of tension building. Murray actually has an outstanding record of not losing here until he is supposed to do, but he’s British and he’s Murray. So all his matches are enveloped in a sense of impending doom.”

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Kevin Garside, of The Independent, could see Novak Djokovic’s new coach Boris Becker already having an influence on his game, judging by the frequency with which he came to the net against Gilles Simon, but felt there was “work to be done, however, on the exotic dive and roll.”
Garside was referring to the nasty tumble the No.1 seed took midway through the third set when he thought he had dislocated something. He quoted Djokovic as saying: “It was a scary fall. I talked with Boris. We need to work on my diving volleys and learn how to fall. I’m not very skilled at that. I fell on my shoulder. When I stood up I felt a click and feared a dislocation or joint problem.” Fortunately, the Serb is confident it will be OK.

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Kevin Mitchell, in The Guardian, wondered whether this year’s Championships might mark “a point in the game’s evolution where the old brutality gives way to a slightly gentler, less attritional tennis. Could this be the time when art outfoxes muscle again?” He had been encouraged to arrive at that conclusion by the tennis of the 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios, who, said Mitchell, “is living up to Andy Murray’s billing of him as a player to watch. Pat Cash reckons he is the best young Australian since Mark Philippoussis.”

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The defeat of Li Na, the Chinese No.2 seed, was undoubtedly the biggest shock so far in a largely shock-less tournament, but Matthew Engel, of the Financial Times, wasn’t surprised because he felt Barboro Zahlavova Strycova, her Czech opponent, had stolen an early march on Li. “Even before putting a score on the board, she had already won the letter count by an unprecedented margin.”
Li put her loss down to her decision not to play at any of the pre-Wimbledon grass-court tournaments. Simon Cambers in The Guardian quoted her as saying: “I think I made the wrong decision. I needed to play some matches before the big one. Sometimes I didn’t know how to play the point, especially in the important moments.”

Rick Broadbent, of The Times, thought the match, which lasted all of two hours 20 minutes, was an “antidote to those who say women do not perspire enough for their equal prize money”. He wrote: “The battle of the sexes keeps ticking over at Wimbledon. Matters for conjecture this year have included the breast reduction of Simona Halep, the No.3 seed, and the perils of bra-less players, leaving some to wonder if they are lacing the G&Ts with the DNA of Bobby Riggs in these parts.”

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A story in the Daily Mail claimed that Wimbledon’s enforcement of the all-white dress code in the ladies’ competitions “risked compromising their dignity”. It quoted Caroline Wozniacki as saying: “I don’t think anyone is showing off their underwear [but] getting it checked would be pretty creepy.”

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Venus Williams, the five-time champion, did not go down without a fight against another former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, but the 34-year-old refuted any idea that this might be her last Wimbledon. Mick Cleary, of the Daily Telegraph, reported her as saying at her press conference: “I’m not getting outa here. No one is going to give you one. You have to snatch it, growl. I did the best I could out there. It was a shame that there had to be a loser. And more of a shame it had to be me.”

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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...

20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."

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