July 4, 2013

Wimbledon: Andy Murray keeps British hopes alive

Andy Murray recovers from a two-set deficit and continues a nation's hope of a first local men's champion in 77 years.

The Associated Press

LONDON - They sighed when Andy Murray faulted.

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Andy Murray throws his wristband to the crowd Wednesday after climbing out of a two-set hole and reaching the Wimbledon men’s semifinals by scoring a 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory against Fernando Verdasco of Spain. Next for Murray: Jerzy Janowicz of Poland.

Photos by The Associated Press

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Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, left, plays a return to David Ferrer of Spain during their Wimbledon quarterfinal. Del Potro will meet top-seeded Novak Djokovic after earning a straight-set victory.

They stood and roared when he hit winners.

And when Murray dropped the first two sets of his Wimbledon quarterfinal Wednesday, the 15,000 Centre Court spectators were suddenly so silent that birds could be heard chirping.

By the time his five-set comeback was nearly complete, more than two hours later, the fans were greeting each point that went Murray's way with celebrations of the sort normally reserved for a final. It's been 77 years since a British man won the country's Grand Slam tennis tournament, and thanks to the second-seeded Murray's 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory over 54th-ranked Fernando Verdasco, the locals can hold out hope the wait ends Sunday.

First things first, of course. Murray, who is from Scotland, will play in the semifinals at the All England Club for the fifth consecutive year Friday, facing No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland. The other semifinal is No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia against No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

There'd no doubt who will receive the most boisterous support.

"Great atmosphere at the end of the match. I love it when it's like that. It was extremely noisy," said Murray, who lost last year's Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. "They were right into it, pretty much every single point."

Murray needed to summon strong tennis and plenty of grit for his seventh career victory after facing a two-set deficit. He never panicked, no matter what all of his self-admonishing muttering and gesticulating looked like, and eventually figured out how to handle Verdasco's 130 mph serves and high-risk, high-reward style.

Murray's mother, British Fed Cup captain Judy Murray, called the match "one of the toughest to sit through."

"When you play more and more matches, and gain more experience, you understand how to turn matches around and how to change the momentum of games," Murray said. "Maybe when I was younger, I could have lost that match. But I think I've learned how to come back from tough situations more as I got older."

He's only 26, but he truly has matured as a player over the past year. After shedding tears following the 2012 Wimbledon final, Murray returned to the same spot four weeks later and beat Federer to win a gold medal at the Olympics. Then, at the U.S. Open in September, he defeated Djokovic to win his first Grand Slam title.

Asked if his triumph in Flushing Meadows lessened the pressure to succeed at home, Murray said: "It's pretty much the same. Not a whole lot's changed."

Murray tries to avoid reading coverage about him, but can't help noticing newspapers left around the locker room.

Wednesday's other quarterfinals lasted a mere three sets each: del Potro's 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (5) win against No. 4 David Ferrer and Janowicz's 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 victory over 130th-ranked Lukasz Kubot in the first Grand Slam match between two men from Poland.

Janowicz, 22, reached his first major semifinal -- the first for a man from his country -- by pounding serves at a tournament-high 140 mph, compiling 30 aces and saving all six break points he faced. When it finished, Kubot walked to Janowicz's side of the court and the pair of Davis Cup teammates and good pals enveloped each other in a warm embrace. Then they yanked their white shirts off and exchanged them, the way soccer players trade jerseys after games.

Janowicz sat in his sideline chair, covered his face and sobbed.

"It's not easy to control all of the feelings inside my body," he said. "I was never in (a major) quarterfinal before. I never had a chance to be in (the) semifinal of a Grand Slam. I never played against Lukasz before."

 

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