Wimbledon Day 5 | Murray refuses to give way
Where there is a will there is a way. And Andy Murray always seems to find it.
Call it bloody-mindness, call it sheer cussedness, the guy refuses to be beaten.
That never-say-die spirit and bottle the size of a Jeroboam more than quality got him through to the second week of Wimbledon in his defence of the title. Like it got him through so many challenges. In Davis Cup, Olympic and Grand Slam finals.
The end of the match was tense. It was an up and down match, I didn't feel like it was the best tennis at times but I managed to get through Andy Murray
He has a level of performance to die for; technique, movement, despite his much-publicised hip problems, spot-on decision-making and all-round skill. But his best quality is that innate stubbornness.
And it was very much a part of why Murray overcame Italian Fabio Fognini 6-2 4-6 6-1 7-5 in an extraordinary Centre Court roller coaster third-round thriller over 2hr.39minutes to face Benoit Paire from France in his 11th visit to the last 16.
He said: “The end of the match was tense. It was an up and down match, I didn’t feel like it was the best tennis at times but I managed to get through.”
Talking to the BBC, the world No.1 added: “It was getting dark towards the end and I was probably thinking a bit about that. We would have had to go off for the roof to go on, so that would have meant a change in conditions. I’m pleased to get off in four.”
The Battle of the Dads – Fognini recently joined the top seed as a father – had all the drama you could wish for; one that seemed to have a bit of everything. One that finished as darkness fell at 8.57.
Murray complained his opponent was taking “20 minutes” to serve while 29th Fognini lost a game after a gesture – putting his finger into his mouth – offended umpire.
The Italian also allowed Murray to win a point after stopping to challenge a shot by world No.1 he deemed to be out while forgetting he had run out of them. And it seemed the emotional Italian, who wore his heart on his sleeve to the delight of David Beckham and the rest of the crowd, could have been on the verge of retirement as he appeared to struggle with injury in the third set.
It seemed as if Murray was being beaten up in an epic fourth set in which he saved FIVE set points after going 5-2 down. Fognini’s short backswing disguised the ferocity of his flamboyant shot-making, appearing to grind Murray down with his thunderous forehand and beautifully glided sliced backhands
The quality may have been lacking at times, but the entertainment was five-star.
Murray, who admitted he was not at his best, put the emotions of his faithful followers, 15,000 courtside and millions on TV, through the mill before delivering the killer blow with an ace.
He roared like a lion as the ashen face of his nervous mother Judy, who did not know whether to stand or sit in Murray’s box, finally broke into a smile.
His wife Kim, carrying their second child, tried to keep calmer, no doubt given her condition, applauded and smiled quietly.
The torture was over for the world No.1’s womenfolk – and the rest the UK.
Murray enjoyed a dream start as he raced to the first set. No sign of the hip trouble as he moved around the court comfortably.
But the Andy Express got derailed in the second set.
He was broken in the first game. And, even though, he broke back immediately, his form dropped off as Fognini took charge. The Italian broke again before going on to level.
Murray upped his game to destroy Fognini in the third set, regaining the overall lead as his opponent appeared to struggle physically.
But suddenly the Italian started to do a job on Murray to take a firm grip on the fourth set.
That is where Murray came into his own. He levelled by winning games he could have lost. The 30-year-old had been on the ropes but he was still standing. And when he broke to lead the set for the first time there was audible relief through the cathedral of tennis. He took the 12th game of the set to love, with the help of two aces and a service winner. Cue the roar from the victor and his supporters. But he knows to take a third Wimbledon crown he needs to improve. And he will.