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Short is sweet for rampant Murray

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:37

At 5pm on Monday evening, Andy Murray was still in the locker room awaiting his fourth round match against Stanislas Wawrinka, five grueling sets of tennis in the sweatbox atmosphere beneath the new Centre Court roof.

48 hours later, the British No.1 headed for a warm-down before his press duties after a near-perfect display dispatched Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5 6-3 6-2.

A hundred minutes of top-class tennis means that the Scot now faces Andy Roddick in his first Wimbledon semi-final on Friday, while Roger Federer plays Tommy Haas, who shocked Novak Djokovic on Court 1.

“I understand that I can lose the next match if I don’t play my best”

Murray was unrecognisable from the player that had wilted so badly against Rafael Nadal at the same stage last year. He owes a lot to the chastening experience – that defeat had also followed an emotional five-setter, against Richard Gasquet.

But this time, after four hours of tennis and the latest finish in Wimbledon history, the Scot returned to the al fresco arena looking fresh and prepared.

He needed to be. Ferrero may be best remembered for winning the French Open in 2003, but has developed into a solid grass court player in these latter stages of his career. Like Murray it was the Spaniard’s second Wimbledon quarter-final, and unlike Murray it had been an early three-set victory over Gilles Simon that had taken him into the last eight.

Murray began the match in emphatic fashion, two aces and a drop shot carrying him to a love service game before the set became a little more nip and tuck in nature.

The Scot came through a scary moment at the end of game four when he tumbled over heavily on his left ankle as he scrambled for a deep forehand. But after a few gingerly hobbled steps, Murray resumed, holding to love once more.

His serving performance improved markedly from two days earlier, connecting with 71% of his first serves in the first set, sending down a handful that broke the 130mph mark and hitting a total of 18 aces. But the Spaniard is a formidable baseliner, and with Murray hitting short too often early on was able to match the world No.3 for the first eleven games, facing a solitary break point along the way.

But Ferrero couldn’t maintain that form long enough to prevent Murray from nicking the set. The Scot was sent on his way by a lucky net cord to give him 15-30, and was handed the set when the Spaniard double-faulted facing a second set point.

With another rapturous crowd now back in their seats after Federer’s comprehensive victory over Ivo Karlovic, Murray began to open his shoulders. A loose service game to open the set handed the initiative to Ferrero, but Murray rattled off five straight games, twice breaking the Spaniard to love as he began finding the lines and corners with consummate ease.

The Scot was out early waiting for Ferrero at the start of the third as he looked to race through in double-quick time, perhaps recognising that across the net the Spaniard’s challenge was fading.

Ferrero held twice on serve early in the third but once again Murray posted consecutive breaks, the second to love once more. A 132mph ace and two further service winners were enough to seal victory that almost felt too straightforward to be remembered as only his second Grand Slam semi-final.

Murray was content to leave the celebrations muted as he continues to avoid milking the spotlight. “It doesn’t make any difference the way you perform, the hype,” he said.

“If you work in the media and spend a lot of time reading the papers, watching everything on the TV, all the things that are getting said on the radio, then you get caught up in it.

“I don’t read it,” he added to laughter in the press room, “because 90% of the stuff’s going to be pretty much untrue anyway.

“I understand that I can lose the next match if I don’t play my best,” he continued. “That’s been one of the things that I’ve learned, and it’s made a huge difference to me over the last year or so.”

“I realise that if I don’t bring my best game then I’m going to lose to guys like Roddick. I feel confident because I’ve won a lot of matches on the grass.

“But every day when I get up to play the matches, I know that I’m going to have to perform very well, and that gets the nerves and the adrenaline going and makes me play better.”

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