By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
When the pressure is on at Wimbledon, Andy Murray delivers. Mostly.
Murray’s march to the semis has felt different this year. There seems to be a lot less ‘getting the excuses in early’ than we’ve seen in other years. Outside the All England club, not keeping your balls inside your pants will get you a place on the sex offenders’ register, but in Wimbledon all it costs is a couple of points.
That’s pretty much been the only grumble in otherwise idyllic progress. The shorts have been adjusted and he has beaten his opponents with little fuss. Murray (25) has not been taken to the five set distance once en route to the last four and has had plenty of time to kick back and point out all the ways Scotland is better than England. Plus Rafa’s not around meaning he avoids a tricky opponent and a handshake with fingers that spend far too long adjusting underwear. It’s a great chance to go through a door he’s been knocking on for several years.
The (kind of) good news is that Andy has generally failed when he’s expected to fail. That’s a more positive thing than you might think at first glance. Despite never making it to the final Sunday at Wimbledon, he hasn’t thrown away many great opportunities to do so. On four of the six occasions when he’s left Wimbledon after breaking Sue Barker’s heart, the odds said he was expected to go out. Early on it was largely down to the fact he wasn’t experienced enough and more recently it’s because he’s not Rafa Nadal.
Murray’s greatest choke
There have been a couple of times when he was favourite and expected to progress further only to crash out. But, to make a pop-culture reference to contemporary word porn, there are 50 shades of favouritism. In 2006, Murray was 1/2 favourite to beat Marcos Baghdatis and book a place in his first quarter-final, but got trounced in straight sets. 1/2 may sound like a hot favourite, but in reality, it’s only a small nudge away from being a coin toss. Especially as the Cypriot was in what we now know was the form of his racket-smashing career.
Based on the odds, his biggest choke came in his first Wimbledon semi-final. The year was 2009 and Andy Roddick was the opponent. Roddick was resurgent after a couple of lean years and playing with the type of fighting spirit you normally only see from the Gallagher brothers at a family reunion. Murray was still the heavy 1/3 favourite to reach his maiden Wimbledon decider, but he got out-fought by the American who edged a tight four sets. It was disappointing, but not of the ‘Tim Henman’s career’ variety.
There is always a way to take the ‘glass of Robinson’s Barley half-empty’ view. On the flip side, there were times when Murray was the outsider to win a game, but only by the slightest of margins. His debut senior appearance at Wimbledon saw him lose to David Nalbandian at odds of 2/1. In the defeats to Rafa Nadal of 2010 and 2011, the pre-match odds suggested victory may have been improbable, but it wasn’t impossible. Maybe there’s a case to be made that he disappointed on those occasions. We’ll forgive him for losing to Nadal in 2008 at odds of 4/1.
It’s a career-defining day
Whatever your thoughts, there’s no doubt that Murray has been handed a golden opportunity to reach the Wimbledon. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a good player, but for a player like Murray, he should be as threatening as a dirty look from the Dalai Lama. The charmingly grumpy Scot is 4/9 favourite to win the match.
Andy has a potentially career-defining few days ahead of him. He has little to fear in his semi-final and potential final. Batten down the liquor cabinet, Sue Barker might yet be breaking out the Pimms.