Wimbledon Day 4 | Murray leads the Brit pack
Andy Murray leads Britain’s awesome foursome in a bid to make the fourth round at Wimbledon. And if he, Alijaz Bedene, Jo Konta and Heather Watson succeed it would be the first time so many home players have reached the stage since 1975.
It's completely different to play here. It’s Wimbledon. It's home for him. Is best-of-five. Something can change. Of course, he's the defending champion Fabio Fognini
Forty-two years ago qualifier Graham Stillwell lost to eventual champion Arthur Ashe in the last 16, while Lindsey Beaven, Glynis Coles and Winnie Wooldridge exited the ladies singles.
The only player to progress was Virginia Wade, who was knocked out in the quarter finals before becoming the last home champion in the event two years later.
World No.1 Murray expects a “serious test” as he takes on Fabio Fognini on Centre Court.
His Italian opponent has beaten the top seed in half of their six meetings, twice on clay and once on hard.
Murray, 30, said: “I expect a really serious test because he’s good off both forehand and backhand, and can hit a lot of winners. This will be our first meeting on grass, so we’ll see how that changes things.
“We’re the same age and we grew up playing each other pretty much since we were 12, so I’ve known Fabio a long time as well as his family, because his dad, mum and sister have come to a lot of tournaments over the years.
“On the court he can sometimes be a little bit different out there and show his emotions a lot – but then so can I.”
Talking to the BBC, he added: “Despite the extrovert competitor you see on court, he’s nice and friendly off it and I’ve always got on well with him. I’m looking forward to seeing him out on Centre Court.”
Fognini, also a tennis father like Murray, accepts taking on Murray on grass for the first time is a major factor.
He said: “It’s completely different to play here. It’s Wimbledon. It’s home for him. Is best-of-five. Something can change. Of course, he’s the defending champion.
“So it’s going to be really tough, for sure. He’s the favourite. Nothing to say. But I think I have the game to play against him, hopefully to play my best tennis another time, try to complicate his life on court. If I have the chance, of course to get it. I hope I will be ready.”
Bedene hopes his third-round foe, Gilles Muller, formerly coached by Murray coach Jamie Delgado, will be “tired” as he attempts to beat the Luxembourg veteran at the third attempt.
The Slovenian-born player bidding to play Davis Cup for Britain took 16th seed Muller – who had to play for three and a half hours to beat Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round – to three sets on the grass of Rosmalen recently.
He said: “I’m lucky to play two hours (to beat Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina). I feel quite happy with that, because I’ve got another day to recover, to do everything right and try to be fresher. It was good to win in four sets. Gills played five sets, so we’ll see. I’d say I’m hoping he’s going to be tired.”
Konta will meet Grecian Maria Sakkari, the world No.101, as she continues her attempt to become the first home winner of the ladies’ singles in SW19 since Virginia Wade in 1977.
The sixth seed and British No.1 made it through to the third round after the best match at Wimbledon so far, edging out Donna Vekic of Croatia in an epic struggle.
But she does not regard the win as a turning point preparing to meet Sakkari.
Konta, 26, said: “I’m seeing it as I get to be still involved in the Championships. I will be working very hard to continue being involved in the event. I don’t really believe in breakthroughs or turning points, and I don’t look at my career in that sense.
“I look at it as continuous building and continuous work in every single match and practice that I have. But I feel very fortunate to have had the encounters that I have had in this event over the years.
“And even this year, I feel very lucky for the players that I’ve got to play, because they have challenged me and tested me in so many great ways that only I think adds to my depth as a player, as a person, that hopefully I can again reinvest into other matches that I will play in the future.”
Watson, who made the Eastbourne semis, has an extra incentive to overcome multi-Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka and make the last 16 — coach Morgan Phillips will shave his legs!
But the Brit concentrated on the respect she has for Azarenka, who has come back after giving birth to her first child, Leo, rather than any light-hearted motivation.
Watson, 25, said: “Vika is an incredible player and person. I really respect how hard she works and how focused she is. I look forward to playing her. I know she has only just come back, but I expect her to be playing really well because I know she will have put in the hours and the work. You don’t get to where she’s got to in her career without being a really good player.”