ANDY Murray will play a left-hander for the first time this year when he takes on Spaniard Fernando Verdasco on Centre Court this afternoon for a place in the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
Murray, who has never reached the last four at SW19 without dropping a set, has a perfect record so far this fortnight. The Scot also has a good record against left-handers – something he attributes partly to having played so much with brother Jamie when he was young.
“I think it’s pretty amazing six months into the year [not to have played a left-hander],” said Murray. “I don’t normally mind the way the ball comes off the racket from the back of the court. I grew up playing with my brother so that almost feels a bit more natural to me than a righty. But the serve is what’s different and the way you move on the return.”
The world No 4 warmed up at the Aorangi Park practice courts yesterday by hitting with left-hander Johan Brunstrom, a Swedish doubles specialist, who was approached on Monday by Murray’s best friend and coaching team member Dani Vallverdu.
Despite his comfortable passage to the quarter-finals, Murray says he is wary of the challenge presented by Verdasco. Indeed, the Scot put his head in his hands when told that one pundit, former British Davis Cup player Barry Cowan, suggested he would have been happy at the start of the tournament had he known he would be facing Verdasco at this stage.
“Verdasco is a very, very good tennis player,” said Murray. “He’s playing very well this week. He’s extremely dangerous when he’s on his game.”
A glance at their head-to-head record implies there is not too much for Murray to worry about, with the Scot having won eight of nine previous meetings against Verdasco, but in grand slams they are tied at one-all, both at the Australian Open, with Verdasco winning the most recent one over five sets in the fourth round in 2009.
There were concerns about Murray’s back during his win over Mikhail Youzhny, with the 26-year-old clutching at his side a number of times. Yesterday, he wore a tight undershirt, which might have been a sign that he is having to nurse his back more now than earlier in the tournament, but he again denied it is a problem. “The back’s fine,” he said.