Who knew? After waiting less than patiently for 77 years to produce a home-grown champion, British tennis has now discovered that winning more than one Wimbledon title could actually be easier than winning the first one. Well, it is if your player of choice is Andy Murray.
Scotland’s finest and Britain’s hero eased himself into the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 win over the mighty Kevin Anderson. He may be ranked No.18 in the world and he may have only won two titles in his eight years on the tour, but by standing 6ft 8in tall in his tennis socks, he is one of the mightiest of the mighty. There is an awful lot of Kevin. But back to Muzza.
In theory, big Kev and his even bigger serve ought to frighten the living daylights out anyone on a grass court, but the defending champion does not scare easily. He is one of the best returners in the game and – and here is a geeky factoid to remember for your next pub quiz night – the taller they come, the better Murray likes it. Against men who stand 6ft 5in tall or taller, he has an overall 39-16 winning record. The only two big blokes who have a winning record over him are Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych. And if that doesn’t win you a point or two – or even a pint or two – down the local on quiz night, nothing will.
There is also another huge contributing factor to Murray’s stately progress this year: he is the champion and that feels good. He was not sure how it would feel to defend such a prestigious title, one he had worked and hoped for all his life, but, as it turns out, it feels pretty darned good. He has had an impressive record of defending silverware throughout his career but Wimbledon is different. Wimbledon is huge. But this year, playing in SW19 feels great.
“I think after winning it last year, the pressure of wanting to win definitely was finally released,” Murray said. “I had worked very hard for a long time in order to get myself into a position where I was able to win the championship. Obviously I’m still feeling the pressure and the nerves but this year, they are completely different. I like having the nerves and I'm able to use them positively.”
There was little by way of nerves against Anderson. Sure enough, the third set got a little tight towards the end but by that point Anderson was playing eye-balls out and still he could not get the upper hand. Prior to that, the Scot was returning the serve with ease, broke early in the first two sets and was cruising. And then it rained.
As is the way of the British weather, its timing was impeccable. No sooner had the roof been opened before the match than a dirty great black cloud moved into position over Centre Court and hung around threateningly. Sure enough, it leaked a little as the match began and then, just to tease, it stopped again. But when the mizzle (it is that damp stuff half way between mist and drizzle) turned to proper rain at the start of the second set, they were off and the roof was closed again.
By this stage, Murray was a set and two breaks to the good with little to worry him. But when he came back to work 26 minutes later, he found Anderson to be a completely different prospect. Now playing indoors, the big man was winning more free points on his serve and that, in turn, gave him renewed confidence. It was not enough to win him the second set – although he did break in the first game after the restart – but it was more than enough to keep him in the thick of things for most of the third set.
For the 62 minutes of that third set, Anderson stood his ground. He thumped down his howitzer serves, he attacked the net and he stepped into the baseline in the long rallies. And still Murray harassed and chased in every one of Anderson’s service game – he was not getting his own way but he was not allowing the big man to settle for a moment. Anderson was playing his best tennis of the match by far and still Murray was standing with one foot in the quarter-finals.
“When we played outdoors, I played very well,” Murray said. “When we came indoors, he started serving better and hitting the ball better. I started dropping the ball short so I had to do a bit more running at the end. It’s obviously good to get off in straight sets. Now I can rest up and get ready for the quarter-finals.”
It will be Murray’s seventh quarter-final in SW19 but his first as a defending champion. If his feel-good factor continues to bring the best from his tennis, he may be through to his sixth semi-final come Friday night, too. Who in British tennis knew it could be like this?
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."View all