THE slogan on his latest T-shirt seemed to stress what everyone is thinking: “No excuses”. Of course, this isn’t really the case. Andy Murray’s path to glory is still littered with potholes and potential anxieties.
But as he practised yesterday at Aorangi Park, there was no reason for his mood to match the darkening skies. These clouds brought a brief shower of rain that sent the Scot and his coaching team scurrying for cover and in the break they played keepie-up together with a tennis ball.
All is well within a camp where things have been falling very nicely into place.
If he completes today’s task and makes it through to the Wimbledon semi-final, Ivo Karlovic will have been Murray’s highest-ranked opponent – at 25. Vasek Pospisil, who stands in his way today, might be enjoying a mid-career upturn in fortunes, but he is still ranked at only 56.
It was easy to interpret Murray’s T-shirt yesterday as a statement of intent. But the message on the T-shirt worn by his coach Amélia Mauresmo was possibly more relevant: “You make your own luck.”
Murray has done that here in overcoming the obstacles placed in his path with the minimum of fuss. It isn’t his fault if others have fallen by the wayside.
I like playing to big crowds. It doesn’t matter if they are with or against meVasek Pospisil
Potential quarter-final opponent Rafa Nadal’s now traditional early exit was not even the first sign this could be Murray’s year once again. The pre-tournament withdrawal of another potential menace from the Mediterranean in David Ferrer, whom Murray might also have played today, was also welcome news.
About the only thing that has not gone Murray’s way so far is the score of the match he kept one eye on yesterday. As he dealt with serves from coach Jonas Bjorkman he was appearing to keep tabs on developments across on Court No 1. A giant scoreboard relayed the goings-on as Novak Djokovic initially struggled to put away South African opponent Kevin Anderson.
At one point it looked as if Murray might have one fewer rival to worry about. Not just any old rival either, perhaps his main one. But Djokovic sealed victory in a dramatic fifth set left over from Monday night’s main course, when the Serbian had been forced to come back from two sets down.
So Murray probably will still have to face two of the greatest players that have ever played the game if he is to win a second Wimbledon singles title – Roger Federer and Djokovic.
But there is a definite feeling that Murray has fortune as well as the crowd on his side. A draw initially described as being particularly awkward-looking for Murray has unfolded in a more benign way than he could have dared hope.
Playing someone ranked as lowly as Pospisil at this stage of a Grand Slam has, Murray conceded, handed him “an opportunity”. But there is plenty of work to be done. He doesn’t believe Pospisil’s endeavours here so far – he has featured in three fiver-setters – will have impaired him as much as some are suggesting.
“It’s a positive [for him] in some ways,” Murray said. He certainly wasn’t “banking” on Pospisil being a less dynamic opponent for having played three five-setters in the singles on his way to booking a last-eight appointment. He has also fitted in another five-setter in the men’s doubles, in which he and Jack Sock were beaten by Murray’s brother Jamie and John Peers.
But Murray cautioned against the generally-held assumption that Pospisil is now running on empty. The Canadian’s confidence is building here, despite his Wimbledon doubles title having slipped from his grasp. He is relishing playing in a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time and has already shot down one home hope in the shape of James Ward.
“It doesn’t really faze me too much playing in front of crowds that are against me,” Pospisil said yesterday, as he contemplated today’s Centre Court experience. “I like playing in front of big crowds, in general. It doesn’t matter if they are against me or cheering for me. Obviously I’d prefer they are on my side but I tend to play well in those kind of situations. So I’m not worried about that, really.”
Murray has been briefed on Pospisil by his brother. “He has got a good serve, good forehand,” said Jamie, who had plenty of time to assess the Canadian during their epic doubles five-setter on Monday evening.
“He likes to come forward a lot which you don’t see so much on grass nowadays. Obviously Andy will start as the big favourite I think. But the guy has got a game. He has got some big shots, likes to come forward which he works well on grass.
“He volleys well once he is up there and he is an athletic guy too. I am sure he will cause Andy problems – but Andy is going to be big favourite.”
Murray’s ambition to repeat his 2013 win won’t be as straightforward as some are suggesting. On the eve of the tournament it looked like he would need to play every other member of the so-called big four. After four rounds, it is still likely he will have to overcome two of them.
But it would be a terrible waste if in-form Murray fails to reach the last four in a year when even his own mother could not have plotted a more favourable route to the semi-finals.