Just keep your eyes on the ball, Andy as Miss Scotlands cheer on their hero

NOT so long ago, he was the awkward teenager whose bushy hair and sullen demeanour seemed to create a barrier between him and many of the nation's tennis lovers.

Now, as his talent on the tennis court has blossomed, so has Andy Murray's following of female admirers.

As he coasted through to the Wimbledon semi-finals yesterday, the 22-year-old might have found time to glance up at the grandstands, where a phalanx of beauty queens and movie stars followed his every move. Indeed, sitting side by side were not one, but two Miss Scotlands – the current holder, Katharine Brown, an old schoolmate of the tennis ace, and a former holder of the title, Nieve Jennings.

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Ms Brown is a qualified tennis coach, who has helped Murray's mother, Judy, to host sessions at Dunblane Primary School.

Also taking in the match were actress Kate Winslet and her film director husband, Sam Mendes, golfing star Sergio Garcia and Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England.

Despite the temperature touching 29C, Murray shrugged off fears of fatigue from his dramatic late-night victory on Monday to clinch a straight-sets win over Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero.

He was so much in control that his mother left Centre Court early to watch his older brother, Jamie, compete in the mixed doubles

Afterwards, Murray – who was also watched by girlfriend Kim Sears – appeared more flummoxed by questions about Miss Scotland than by anything his Spanish opponent had thrown at him.

Before the match got under way, Ms Brown had said: "We're going to try and buy some Scotland flags inside. Either way, you'll be able to hear us shouting for him in the crowds."

Shown TV footage of the two beauty queens cheering him on, Murray said: "She was at school with me. She was…annoying. She's a nice girl now, though. My mum has coached her."

At the post-match press conference, he was asked if he was pleased she had made the effort to go and see him play?

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He said: "Well, she came to watch at Queen's. Yeah, I mean any time any of my friends or people… One of my best friends from school came to watch me the other night against (Viktor] Troicki. It's nice.

"So, regardless of whether it's a Miss Scotland – which I know is the angle you'll be going for – I'm happy that one of my school friends came to watch."

Murray, who has received messages of support from the Queen and Sir Sean Connery, revealed he had been given a handwritten message from Sir Cliff Richard.

But the man who upset some people south of the Border with a quip about the England football team clammed up when asked if he would be cheering on England in the Ashes cricket series. He slumped on to the desk, head in hands, before recovering his composure to say: "Yeah, let's go to the next one."

Murray is bidding to become the first British male to claim a Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry in 1936.

Hundreds of Murray supporters had camped out for two nights outside Wimbledon to secure tickets to see their hero. And he did not let them down as he appeared to be in a hurry to swat away the Spaniard.

After his victory, one fan draped in a Saltire, Rebekah Caldwell, 21, from Kilmarnock, said: "He's got a good head on his shoulders and he's got what it takes to win … plus he's Scottish, so that helps. Everyone just wants him to do well."

Bookmakers narrow odds on a Scottish winner

BOOKMAKERS have now narrowed the odds on Murray winning Wimbledon to just 2/1, although Roger Federer remains a 2/5 favourite with Ladbrokes.

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Spokesman Nick Weinberg said: "The Murray bandwagon is in full flow. He just gets better and better. Our liability increases with every round. We're bracing ourselves for a huge payout to patriotic punters."

Murray's passage to the semi-finals means one tennis fan has moved a step closer to winning a 16,000 bet. Merfyn Griffiths, a police worker from Wales, placed a bet five years ago that Murray would win Wimbledon in or before 2010.

Mr Griffiths, from Clywd, placed 60 at odds of 200/1 with William Hill in August 2004 on Murray winning Wimbledon, and a further 40 at 100/1 for him to win any Grand Slam.

Graham Sharpe of William Hill said: "Mr Griffiths is on holiday in Spain with his wife, but has been keeping in contact with us as Murray moves through the tournament. But he says he prefers to stay on holiday rather than returning to see the final should Andy reach it."