Wimbledon: Andy Murray must overcome the elements as well as Cilic
FROM late night action on centre stage to a matinee appointment on the wrong side of the Wimbledon tracks, somewhere otherwise known as Court No 1.
Andy Murray’s title hopes rest on him being a versatile performer, as he comes out blinking into the daylight this afternoon against Marin Cilic, overhead conditions permitting.
The Scot will have to hope that the weather gods treat him as kindly as Wimbledon officials did on Saturday night, when his match against Marcos Baghdatis was allowed to run past the 11pm curfew agreed between the All England Club and the local borough of Merton council. Sadly for Murray, there has been a sting in the tail of such seeming clemency.
Many have expressed surprise that he is scheduled to play on the roofless No 1 court, particularly given the poor weather which has been forecast for today. It means Murray won’t now have the comfort of knowing his match with Cilic will be played whatever the conditions, and having responded so well when fading light prompted the decision to shut the roof on Centre Court during his match on Saturday evening. Yesterday he described how he drew extra energy from the increase in intensity after the roof had been closed.
“When the roof comes on everyone gets really excited,” he said. “The atmosphere changes for sure. None of the noise gets lost, it stays in the stadium. Because it’s something different people get really into it.
“With it getting close to 11pm, people have probably had a few drinks as well and they get into it even more. The atmosphere at the end was incredible. But I hope it stays dry because Wimbledon is an outdoor event.”
This could be a forlorn hope following forecast updates yesterday from the Met Office. There is a strong chance of rain falling until 5pm today, making Murray’s relegation to Court No 1 even harder to fathom. It has been suggested that Wimbledon officials have been stung by criticism from Ivo Karlovic, who bitterly accused the All England Club of favouring Murray after he had been penalised for a series foot-faults in their second round meeting last week. Tournament officials claim that the decision to hand him an appointment on Court No 1 is in line with Wimbledon’s policy of handing each top name a match away from Centre Court to avoid such accusations of favouritism. Their regulations state that they aim for “efficient and imaginative scheduling” when deciding who plays where.
“Most players play there [on Court No 1],” explained Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis club. “It is a busy day, the last 16 is always the busiest day. We always have that issue on the second Monday.”
For a spell on Saturday night, it looked as though Murray would be grateful for any sort of billing today, just so long as he was in the fourth round. Baghdatis had started to enjoy himself in the spotlight, and was the one with most reason to complain about the break in play to allow the roof to be moved into position. But then Murray re-emerged with a new conviction and with kinesiology tape strapped around his knee, although he has played down the effects of a series of falls against Baghdatis. He revealed that he had taken the chance to change his footwear on Saturday night. “I got a few bumps and bruises, and I fell a lot more than I normally do on grass,” he said. “But I put on a new pair of shoes when the break came and I moved better after that.”
Murray seemed renewed when he returned. He plugged into the electricity generated by late night tennis action, when drink is mixed in with the exhilaration which comes with the knowledge that you are being treated to bonus hours of entertainment.
The Scot has often spoken of his love for the US Open, and on a night such as Saturday, when Wimbledon shook off its cloak of decorum, we could almost have been in Flushing Meadows, amid the screech of New York.
Murray reclaimed control, winning eight of the last nine games. At 11.02, after a ace had secured Murray’s victory, those on Centre Court rose to their feet in the knowledge they had witnessed a piece of Wimbledon history, on what was the tournament’s longest day. Now the Scot must seek to make it another momentous occasion on Sunday, six days and a further three matches away.
Whatever happens, Wimbledon has been assured a debut finalist next weekend, with three-times runner-up Andy Roddick having fallen at the weekend. Now Murray must adapt to different circumstances this afternoon, with the 6ft 6in Cilic’s output contrasting with Baghdatis’ busking style. That said, Cilic, who was born in the Bosnian city of Mostar but is now a Croatian passport holder, is an athletic mover around the court, and should not be viewed as a one-dimensional performer.
Cilic won at Queen’s last month after David Nalbandian’s disqualification, but his best showing in a Grand Slam event was a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open two years ago. Once, when asked about his hopes of a major win, he said: “Maybe Wimbledon, I am working on that.”
Murray and Cilic have met each other six times in the senior ranks. Today’s clash means they have now met each other at each of the Grand Slam events. The head-to-head statistics stand at 5-1 in Murray’s favour, although their rivalry goes back further, when they were both regulars on the juniors circuit. Indeed, Cilic defeated Murray in the semi-finals of the junior French Open in 2005.
The Scot expressed the hope that Cilic might be tired following the Croat’s struggles against Sam Querrey on Saturday, when he emerged victorious after five-and-a-half hours. Murray acknowledged that “guys have come back from long matches before, like Novak [Djokovic] in Australia this year”. Murray, of course, was on the receiving end of that lung-busting effort from Djokovic, who followed it up with another epic victory over Rafael Nadal in the final.
Ivan Lendl, Murray’s coach, yesterday tried to play down the impact of the Scot’s switch to Court No 1 after three straight matches on Centre. “It’s going to be a factor if it rains, beyond that I don’t see it as a problem,” he said. “I have no clue if conditions there are different. You walk in there and it looks like a mini Centre Court, it looks wonderful.”
Wherever he is scheduled to play, Murray knows there is one consistent feature of his life at Wimbledon, and that is the pressure heaped on the Scot’s shoulders. “I guess every game will feel like a cup final now,” he said. But Murray revels in the intensity. After a moment last week when he seemed to be heading a flotilla of British success stories, he is back in the old routine, as the lone home hope.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North