Ferrer’s withdrawal on the eve of the championships leaves a hole on that quarter of the draw and makes it all the more likely that Rafael Nadal, the No 10 seed, who had been scheduled to meet his Spanish compatriot in the fourth round, will get through to the quarter-finals where he could, potentially, meet Murray. Ferrer, the No 8 seed cited an elbow injury and his place in the draw was taken by Luca Vanni from Italy, a lucky loser from the qualifying competition. Vanni will now take on James Ward, the British No 4, tomorrow.
Nadal is a better grass court player than Ferrer but the former Wimbledon champion has been struggling all year to find form and confidence.
If the two had met next Monday, there would be no obvious favourite if both men were fit. As it is, Nadal has been given a bit of a helping hand while Murray can only see another huge obstacle being cemented into his path.
Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, had his title defence preparations interrupted by allegations of cheating. His coach, Boris Becker, had hinted on BBC radio that he and Djokovic have a special way of communicating during matches – something that is banned by both the Association of Tennis Professionals in tour matches and by the International Tennis Federation in grand slam events.
“I don’t think that we’re cheating,” the champion said. “I don’t think that’s how you can call it. I mean, there are special ways of, I would say, communication. As he mentioned, the way you look at each other, the way you feel your box, and the box feels what you’re going through on the court. I think that’s something that just gives you that reassurance, gives you that confidence.”
Becker, though, has, in the past, been more forthcoming about their on-court antics. As the obvious star of the support team and the only non-Serbian speaker in the team, he has worked out ways of getting his message across to the world No 1 during matches.
“During a match the referee obviously watches me carefully and I can’t do a lot,” Becker said.
“But there are people with me and they can use some Serbian dialect to let him know what I want. That works pretty well.”
Becker is also in favour of allowing the coaches greater leeway.
On the women’s tour, players can call their coaches on to court for a pep talk – although the practice is not allowed at the four grand slam tournaments – and Becker thinks that a little of that would go a long way in the men’s game.
“We have to start asking: is it not about time, to allow the coach on court to help the player in a direct way?” Becker said. “This would help the quality of the game – you see this in football, basketball, boxing. And it would enhance the importance of the coach. It’s not the case yet, so you look for different possibilities.
“We all know that Toni Nadal [Nadal’s uncle and coach] has got his own way to coach Rafa; sometimes he gets caught, sometimes not. So many matches are being decided by strategy. Where is the player’s position, who pushes whom back from the baseline? It’s about the mental, the emotional side. Best-of-five matches take a long time, they’ve got many ups and downs, and there are so many situations where the coach could do something to help his player if he is weak at any time.”