WHEN Rafael Nadal was sent hurtling from Wimbledon by an unknown Czech, who was promptly exposed by Philipp Kohlschreiber’s German efficiency in the next round, there was another predictable response: with the Spaniard gone from Andy Murray’s half of the draw, the Scot must be a finals certainty. Against Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer, probably. Just fill in the blank.
Not that Murray would be so presumptuous, but the host nation’s hunger for the golden trophy last won by a British man in 1936 grows by the year. Tim Henman played in four semi-finals; Murray has lost in the past three. If the fourth seed goes on to reach the last four for a fourth time, his opponents will have comprised dangerous 16th seed Marin Cilic and either David Ferrer or Juan Martin Del Potro, just for the right to play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
A doddle? Not exactly.
”Just because ‘Rafa’ goes doesn’t mean there’s nobody left except Andy Murray,” Federer, that noted Swiss killjoy, remarked drily on Saturday. Added Henman, now a BBC commentator: ”If Andy gets through to the semis he knows he’s not playing Nadal. But he’s got to get there yet.”
Another round, another step taken, but in dramatic circumstances that bordered on the bizarre. Murray was not just in danger of falling two-sets-to-one behind Marcos Baghdatis, but then at risk of not finishing his match before the 11pm residential curfew on the covered centre court.
Common sense eventually prevailed, as did Murray, who was permitted to play the final game needed to complete the third round before the traditional Sunday rest.
”I was under the impression that at 11 o’clock we were stopping, regardless of what the score was, and I think I actually broke serve to go 5-1 at that time, and then walked to the net because I thought we were going to have to come back on Monday,” said Murray, who won 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. ”I don’t know what the ruling is, I don’t know who decides when we can stop. Even at 5-1 the match still could have gone on. I was just lucky I finished it in a couple minutes.”
For Cilic, the issue was not minutes, but hours: the 5½ it took him to get past Sam Querrey 17-15 in the fifth set of the second-longest match in Wimbledon history, beaten only by the John Isner-Nicolas Mahut ultra-marathon of two years ago. Cilic first served for the match at 6-5 in a final set that lasted more than two hours.
”When the scoreboard was coming up and it was like 14-all, 15-all, there’s a bit of you sort-of thinking ‘that’s great for me, or for Marcos’,” Murray said.
”Guys can recover, though. It was a five-hour match. When I played Novak in Australia our match was pretty much five hours, and then he played six hours against Rafa. So you can recover. The day [off] definitely, definitely helps, but hopefully I’ll be the fresher.”
Ferrer could be next, having inflicted what may have been Andy Roddick’s last loss at the tournament where he has reached the final three times, and so nearly won the third, against Federer in 2009.
The American would not be drawn into retirement speculation, but will return for the Olympics, having been encouraged to have found over the past fortnight a little of what had been missing for most of the year.
”I’m proud that I’ve been very dedicated to my craft,” Roddick said. ”There aren’t many days when I go to sleep wondering if I could have done more as far as preparation or work or effort. So that makes it easier to walk off the court and be proud.”
Two newly minted record-holders will meet in the women’s fourth round: Serena Williams served a Wimbledon record 23 aces in her two-hour, 28-minute struggle with the accomplished grass-courter Zheng Jie that the four-time champion was wildly relieved to have won 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 9-7. Kazakh wildcard Yaroslava Shvedova was unaware that she had become just the second player in history to complete a so-called ”golden set”, by winning all 24 points in the first set of her 6-0, 6-4 belting of French Open finalist Sara Errani. American Bill Scanlon, was the first, at Delray Beach in 1983.
”I never knew that existed, a golden set,” Williams said of Shvedova’s achievement. ”I was like, ‘what does that mean?’ I immediately thought, she won all four in a row and the Olympics?
”I thought that wasn’t possible. That’s the only golden thing I know of. Hopefully I’ll be able to win a point in the set [when I play her]. That will be my first goal and then I’ll go from there.”
Others to play are: Petra Kvitova (1) v Francesca Schiavone (24), Roberta Vinci (21) v Tamira Paszek and Victoria Azarenka (2) v Ana Ivanovic (14). The top half was set on Friday, but the rest day should work to the advantage of sentimental favourite Kim Clijsters, who is carrying an abdominal tear through her Wimbledon farewell and today meets eighth seed Angelique Kerber.
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