Things are looking good for the British defending champion at SW19. After advancing smoothly through the first week at Wimbledon with scores that belied the skill of his opponents, such was the merciless nature of his play, he put in another perfunctory performance today in his match against Kevin Anderson. Yet to drop a set in the competition so far, Murray appears to be in excellent physical and mental shape for the upcoming later rounds.
He dispatched Kevin Anderson, the best South African player on the circuit, in straight sets with the final score reading, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6. Standing at a towering 6 ft 8″ and with a career high ranking of 18, Anderson had been showing some of the best form of his career this year, and many thought he might have a chance against Murray in this competition. However, the South African makes the mistake of many taller players and relies overly on his impressive power serve to bring him through matches. Although it did occasionally prove to be too much for the British number one, Murray invariably worked his game around the problem while also producing some truly incredible returns which often caught his opponent off guard. The speed of the Brit’s movement and his athleticism on court also out-classed the man on the other side of the net, creating mistake after mistake on the part of the South African. The third set provided a little tension with a nerve-wracking game that included several deuce points before Anderson held tough with his serve, and then a tie-break at the end, but it all seemed a little too easy for Murray.
Due to face the winner of the match between Grigor Dimitrov and Leonardo Mayer in the quarter finals, the chances are the Brit will face the Bulgarian, Dimitrov, ranked 11th in the tournament. It certainly looks as though if Murray continues to play with similar efficiency then he should ease into the final as swiftly as he has into the last eight of this tournament. Whether or not he could continue to hold his nerve and produce the brilliance needed to face, in all likelihood, Djokovic in the semis, and either Nadal or Federer in the final, is more difficult to predict.
His success at the grass tournament also sheds light on his recent decision to hire a new coach. It now looks as if the interesting partnership between Murray and former champion Amelie Mauresmo was the right choice. While many were skeptical of the pairing, he maintained that he was used to having female influence and advice concerning his game due to the presence of his mother, coach Judy Murray, for the duration of his career. With the worries about his ability to manage the pressure and expectations of the British public on top of his own, the fact he has not won a Grand Slam title since coming back from back surgery, and then the lingering doubts about his choice of coach, the defending champion looked set for a tough time at the start of this year’s Wimbledon. However, true to form, Murray refused to be drawn into the hopes of a nation, preferring to focus instead on his personal ambitions, saying he expected some pressure but felt more than up to the challenge. After watching his performance today, not many people could doubt that he certainly has a good shot at holding that coveted trophy once again.
Commentary by Rhona Scullion