ANDY Murray is himself again and the good people of Wimbledon can relax. After a tense and awkward first round, the former champion has settled into his championship-winning ways and his ever-growing fan club has settled in with him. Their man has hit his stride.
Murray did not just beat Robin Haase to reach the third round, he absolutely battered him. Marmalised him. Demolished him. It took just one hour and 27 minutes to secure the victory 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 and for those first two sets, Haase looked lucky to win the two games.
Murray had been sent out to No 1 Court for the day (all the big names have to play at least one match away from Centre Court) and this seemed to have caught Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, by surprise. A tennis fan, she had beetled down to the club for her annual dose of Wimbledon mania but instead of sitting in the shaded bliss of the Royal Box on the main court, she was parked out in the sunshine with everyone else. She did a lot of smiling, mind you, as she cooled herself with her Wimbledon fan (everything is branded with the big ‘W’ around these parts) and Murray did his best to make sure she had no time to overheat. He was quick and she was happy.
The last time Murray and Haase played was at the US Open last summer and Murray almost ground to a halt. It was a first-round match and, at last, he was feeling more like his old self. Or so he thought. The months he had spent on the comeback trail following his back surgery had been frustrating and, at times painful (his back was still tender as the year began) but by the end of August, he felt more able to play with freedom. He was feeling fitter, stronger and occasionally he was producing glimpses of his A-game.
And then, inexplicably, as he faced an old foe he knew well, he started to cramp. A seasoned campaigner and one used to the heat and the humidity of the North American circuit – he has a home and a training base in Miami, after all – he should have been prepared and ready but somehow he had made a schoolboy error in his pre-match eating and drinking. Now his muscles were seizing up. To make sure it did not happen again, he spent the rest of the tournament nicking the packets of salt in the players’ restaurant and sprinkling them liberally over his pre-match comestibles.
Yesterday, though, Murray barely had time to break a sweat much less develop a twinge. He was awfully good and Haase, quite simply, wasn’t. There was no need for salt supplements this time and even if there had been, as a member of the All England Club, Murray could have had them delivered on a silver salver.
Haase is big, he is strong and he is capable of causing anyone problems but yesterday, he was having a nightmare. His timing was off, his chin was on his shoelaces and he was taking a hiding. Murray, though, was not to be fooled. He had played the Dutchman four times before – and won three times – and knew what to expect. So when Haase started going for his shots at the start of the third set, the former champion was waiting for him and squashed all sign of resistance.
The world No 3 was lightning fast, powerful when he had to be, delicate and deft when he had the opportunity to be. This was Murray moving through the gears as his grand slam campaign gathers momentum. This is what he had been hoping for and what everyone had come to see. No wonder Camilla was smiling.