Murray goes fourth
Scot avoids Centre Court distractions to keep Wimbledon dreams alive
Andy Murray was just about to serve for the first time when the dreaded cry reverberated within the Centre Court fish bowl. "C'mon Tim!" came the salute from someone who evidently fancied he was Oscar Wilde.
Around the oh so amusing heckler, a few patrons, knowing how much Murray gets irritated by this mouldy old chestnut, evidently scolded his Henmaniac tormentor.
Yet if the Scot heard, he did well to hide his disdain. Bang! An ace immediately followed with the first shot of the match, sending Ivan Ljubicic sprawling in a vain attempt to retrieve it, and Britain's last man standing at this Wimbledon was on his way into the fourth round as he eventually sealed victory 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4).
Yet one service game later, some other wag decided to have a go. Whether it was meant to distract Murray, only the perpetrator knew but again the response was truly emphatic.
Thud! Another ace. Here was evidence, if it was ever needed, that the Scot was now far too professional to be distracted by any would-be comedians during his late-night shows. Indeed, this riposte was a perfect put down for any heckler.
By the middle of the first fiercely contested set, even the vast majority of the crowd, all supporting Murray rather than Henman, had clearly had enough of the stupid brigade. "Oh, shut up!" one shouted, in response to yet another tedious rendition of the same old cry. Applause greeted this response.
Good. Murray needed all the help he could get here in his first true test of the tournament as he found himself locked in another late-night thriller, the sort he is patenting here as the only player now to have played not just twice but thrice under the Centre Court roof, against the streetwise Croat who was once ranked third in the world.
Ljubicic is getting on in tennis terms now; at 32, he has lost a bit of his fleet-footedness which once carried him to a place among the best three players on the planet but he still looked hugely dangerous, with his old mighty serve and sweet single-handed backhand in fine working order, as he hit back to take the second set 6-4, after Murray had take the opener by the same score.
Here was another first Friday at Wimbledon and another lonely boy impression from Murray.
Once Laura Robson, courageously against Maria Sharapova, and Elena Baltacha, with just the hint of a choke against Shuai Peng, had departed, it was once again down to the Scot, as he has for the past three years, to be the last Brit - or last Scot, depending on what you prefer - standing before the opening weekend.
It was on the eve of the match that Murray had chosen to publicly reveal his irritation at the "C'mon Tim" cries. all this. This seemed fair enough.
After all, we first heard this joke in 2008 at the first post-Henman Wimbledon when the young Scot was doing his utmost to emulate Middle England's hero by reaching the quarter-finals. It was mildly amusing the first time but, two semi-finals later, it has rapidly become about as funny as toothache.
Not to those inside Centre Court, though. Every time some wag pipes up with the crack, he - and it always seems to be a he - we end up with an audience guffawing uncontrollably. Er, perhaps until last night.
Evidently, it had got on Murray's nerves something rotten. "It is a classic, that one. It is hilarious and it happens every match, three or four times," he said, voice dripping with irony. "And I don't find it particularly amusing."
Even though a lot of us would have sympathy for Murray on this score, you could not help feeling this was a seriously bad idea, bringing up a pet hate which seemed guaranteed to just offer a few more feeble-minded show-offs the chance to wind him up.
Indeed, by suggesting that he and his team had asked each other before his second-round match against the German, Tobias Kamke, how long it would be before the first 'C'mon Tim' cry would be heard - Murray was convinced it would be in the first game - and had a little bet on it between themselves, he was just giving the bookies ideas.
Sure enough, William Hill ended up offering odds on how quickly the first Come On Tim' heckle would take place. It was 8/11 that it would happen while he was walking on to court, 2/1 that it would start during the knock up and longer odds still before and during the first two games. Perhaps the first heckler cashed in at 7-2.
Murray's own odds to break Britain's Wimbledon title drought will have narrowed despite the sometimes erractic display but a meeting with Richard Gasquet in the fourth round is next on the agenda.