Monday 21 August 2017

Red-hot Murray gets royal seal of approval

Mark Hodgkinson , at Wimbledon

For three, four, or possibly five sets on Centre Court tomorrow, there is going to have to be a moratorium on the cooing, the flirting and the sweet nothings on Twitter. As mortifying as Andy Murray finds it that his mother has a crush on his opponent, Judy's hot beams of affection for Feliciano 'Deliciano' Lopez will have to be dimmed for the day, when her son will be attempting to reach the semi-finals for the third consecutive year.

Here at the great grass-court reality show, Murray should be able to deal with any outside distractions -- on the occasion of his fourth-round match against Richard Gasquet he had the duke and duchess of Cambridge watching him from the royal box, and yet the fourth seed played as though he wants a knighthood.

But there are worse opponents for Murray to be meeting at this stage of the championships than the world No 44. Though Lopez is a very respectable grass-court player, and the Spanish leftie will be making his third appearance in the quarter-finals, the expectation will be that Murray will make the last four again, where he would be likely to play Rafael Nadal, the world No 1 and the defending champion. It will be Murray's fifth meeting with Lopez, and he is yet to lose to him.

While Lopez, who had beaten Andy Roddick in the previous round, had to come from two sets down to defeat Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot, Murray played with considerable poise against Gasquet.

Murray turned in one of the most accomplished grass-court performances of his career yesterday. "I thought that was good, but I need to improve -- the best players ever are still in the tournament, so I need to get even better," Murray said of his 7-6 6-3 6-2 victory.

On the previous occasions that these two had met at the Slams, Murray dropped the first two sets before coming back to beat Gasquet in five, but this was much more straightforward for the Scots man as he played his first outdoor match on Centre Court at these championships.

Murray could hardly be blamed for arriving with a geography teacher's facial fuzz -- he would have shaved if anyone had told him that the royals would be there, and that he would be meeting them afterwards.

And although the roof was deployed once again for a Murray match, just as it had been for his two appearances on Centre Court last week, this time it was not because of rain, but because of the sunshine, as it was extended slightly to provide shade for the royal box.

These were the warmest conditions that Murray has played in at Wimbledon, and it took him a while to adjust to the new speed of the court.

Gasquet's backhand is both elegant and devilishly effective. Until the tie-break, the French man played with style and flair, dropping only five points on serve. But, Gasquet being Gasquet, he fell away when it really mattered.

Thereafter, Murray was the better player, so he made the last eight for the fourth consecutive summer.

The other day at the practice courts, Judy was watching her son train with Lopez. "My mother thinks you're beautiful," Murray told the Spaniard, and Judy turned red and scuttled away. Tomorrow, though, both Murrays will have their game-faces on. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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