Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Wimbledon fourth round: Murray v Gasquet

Should Centre Court ever need another new roof, they can dispense with hiring contractors to lift the old one off, and just hope that Andy Murray plays a match of the calibre he did last night against the Frenchman Richard Gasquet: the crowd will soon have the roof raised.
Finally, after three matches at Wimbledon, Andy Murray had Centre Court enraptured. He came from two sets down to beat Gasquet, the 8th seed, and set up a quarter-final match with the number two seed, Rafael Nadal.
In a reasonable first set Murray fought hard, but could not break Gasquet’s serve. At 6-5 Murray faced break and set points. Gasquet attempted a drop-shot, and Murray seemed to stand still before realising where he was and what the score was, and raced over to scoop it up and save the point, drawing the kind of gasps from the crowd that had previously been reserved for Henman. He could not keep it up, however, and Gasquet took the first set 7-5.
After that, and a lacklustre second set during which McEnroe’s frustration with the Murray drop-shot on big points became evident to everyone, Murray looked down and out, losing the second set 6-3. He looked tired, even startled that he was going to be dispatched in such an untimely and undignified manner.
He had no answer to Gasquet’s tactics, and the Frenchman simply did not allow him to play his best tennis. He was broken in the third set, and Gasquet continued his emphatic lead - until he came to serve for the match at 5-4. He became nervous, and Murray found himself with three break points. Five all.
Murray held, but so did Gasquet. Tiebreak time. Murray quickly won the first point, and soon took it 7-3 with a spectacular passing shot that he hit from away beyond the tramlines at such an angle that mathematicians will have to rewrite Pythagoras.
In fact, he was so far out wide that he almost ended up celebrating from within the now jubilant crowd, and celebrate they did. Well done to the BBC cameraman who got that fantastic shot of Murray roaring his delight against a backdrop of standing bodies, raised arms, and ecstatic, disbelieving faces with mouths open almost as wide as Murray’s; who, at that point, looked like a python about to devour an elephant.
From here on in Murray dictated the match, running away with the fourth set 6-2. Suddenly Gasquet was the one who looked tired; taken aback by Murray’s newfound energy, and overwhelmed by both his tennis and the rejuvenated crowd. Even the Aussie fans, distinctive in their yellow t-shirts, who had been decidedly under whelmed by Hewitt’s straight sets defeat to Federer earlier that day, stayed put to support Murray, and he gave them something to cheer about.
A frustrated Gasquet took an extended toilet break at the end of the fourth set, and complained about the noise of the crowd (er, you’re playing a Brit at Wimbledon in the fourth round, what did you expect?) and the diminishing light. Play went on, however. Murray broke and held to go 2-0 up, despite Gasquet’s best efforts. Murray had chances to break to make it 5-2, but Gasquet held on by the skin of his teeth.
Murray came out to serve for the match at 5-4 at around 9.30pm in near-darkness, and where Gasquet had failed, Murray succeeded. After almost four hours, the first two of which did not bode well, Murray made it to his first Grand Slam quarter-final, beating a player against which he has never won before. Let us pray that he can continue this trend on Wednesday against Nadal. Surely there’s room for another shock exit.
It was the most nerve-shredding, sweat-inducing, exhilarating match of the tournament; but those on Centre Court, (sorry, Tim) Murray Mount, and the rest of the nation who had come out from behind the sofa to perch on the edges of armchairs like myself thought it was worth it. Some of those on Murray Mount had left near the end of the third set: they’ll be kicking themselves now.
After his astonishing victory Murray even managed to smile, and well he might. He also rolled up his right shirt sleeve and clenched his fist to show off his now rather impressive bicep. With that action he announced his level of fitness and (although he denies it) seemed to send a gesture of defiance toward his next opponent, also famed for his biceps.
Murray was sure to have a good sleep last night. After such a physical match accompanied by very enthusiastic celebrations which even his former critics found impossible not to respond to; in his post-match interview he was as calm and collected as he has been for the duration of the tournament. That is more than can be said for those who watched the match. Paradoxically it was almost unbelievable that he had won; yet at the same time, we never quite believed that he would lose.

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