THE trouble with playing someone ranked at number 56 in the world is that you must overcome the challenge as efficiently as everyone has predicted. Murray managed expectations yesterday, beating Vasek Pospisil in three sets, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
Even with two rain breaks, Murray had still completed the task in good time for those who wished to get away in order to beat the tube strike, which began at 6pm. By this time Murray was already shivering in an ice bath as he prepared for his next test – a date with the so-called Fed Express.
I think a lot of times these umpires, they seem to just want to be seenVasek Pospisil, penalised twice
This quarter-final contest went according to Murray’s plan in every way except for those rain stoppages. The Scot’s momentum was disrupted slightly by the first delay. But he came back out strongly after the second break, during which the roof slid over the arena, to secure the second set.
When the third set was claimed confidently he was home and dry and into a sixth Wimbledon semi-final. Of course he won’t be content with only this. Roger Federer awaits, having seemed to have barely broken sweat to date in this campaign. But he can expect to be tested by Murray, no question. Particularly when the Scot is in this kind of form.
Murray’s patience was a virtue yesterday, not only when waiting in the locker room to be called back out for play to resume as frustrating showers passed by overhead. An early break in the third game meant Murray was in control at the first rain delay, which occurred at 3-1 to the Scot in the first set.
When play resumed again after a hold-up of 35 minutes, Pospisil managed to withstand pressure from Murray to hold his serve. But it was a double fault by the Scot at the start of the next game that triggered some alarm; had Murray’s troublesome shoulder cooled down again, as he claimed was the problem when he suffered a slow start after Andreas Seppi’s injury time-out on Saturday?
When he then pushed a double-handed backhander into the net to go 0-30 down, concern grew greater. But there was a let-off for Murray when Pospisil sliced a smash wide – but the Scot had retrieved the ball exceptionally, forcing the Canadian into an error when Pospisil was probably wondering how he was not already celebrating three break points.
The afternoon started brightly for Pospisil, who won his first service game to love. But then so did Murray. The Scot gained a breakthrough as early as the third game, securing the break after Pospisil was unable to dig the ball from out of his feet at the net after a Murray return had again asked serious questions of him.
This seemed to be Murray’s game plan; make sure he could take advantage of the chances that would come his way on the Canadian’s serve. While this wasn’t often, there were enough opportunities for Murray to remain in the ascendancy. He clinched a break again in the 11th match of the second set with a terrific backhand.
While Murray may have made it look easy at times, it clearly wasn’t. Pospisil might have been the lowest ranked opponent left in the draw but he proved why he had lasted so long. The Canadian has a subtle touch to go with a booming serve that threatened at times to cause Murray problems. Pospisil also managed to turn the crowd in his favour after the umpire called him for not one, but two time violations.
This was harsh in the opinion of most. The rule for Grand Slams is 20 seconds but it is rarely enforced. The first violation brought him a warning and the second was punished by the loss of his second serve, which prompted the Centre Court crowd to show their displeasure with an admittedly polite chorus of booing. Pospsil didn’t deserve what felt like mild persecution from the Italian umpire Pascal Maria.
“I think a lot of times these umpires, they seem to just want to be seen,” he said later.
Pospisil was particularly pained by the first intervention, which occurred when he was serving at 5-5, 30-30 in the second set. “I don’t know why they do it at a time like that. How many times do you see the top guys go more than that and they don’t get any violation, especially when it’s important moments?
“I was right about to serve the ball. If he would have waited one second longer, I would have served. Maybe the second one, yes, but not that, not at five‑all, 30‑all. That was ridiculous, in my opinion.”
Pospisil knows how it feels to be the perceived bogeyman when beating home favourite James Ward in the third round. But here he earned sympathy. There was no disgrace in this defeat. Pospisil even came up with a shot from between his legs as Murray ramped up the pressure, the Scot breaking with a clinical backhand to serve for the match.
The spectators rightly applauded Pospisil, this watchable player in the midst of a welcome upswing in fortunes. The Canadian has enhanced his reputation greatly in recent days. But now he is free to take a well-earned rest. For Murray, meanwhile, the work truly begins.