A star falls to earth, but he will rise again

Murray-mania: A very British coup as Connery's status as greatest living Scot is endangered by young pretender
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In the front row of the Royal Box of Centre Court, Sir Sean Connery had not been just stirred, but seriously shaken. Not a man to lay bare his emotions, he had stared granite-faced, arms folded, soberly appreciating the quality of the "warm-up card" of men's No 1 seed Roger Federer accounting for Nicolas Kiefer, followed by the ladies' No 15 seed Kim Clijsters progressing after her defeat of Roberta Vinci.

Then there came that crucial moment in what, was for Connery, and for anyone present with Scottish blood, the prime attraction of the day: the moment that Andy Murray had broken back, reasserting himself in a first set that appeared to be eluding him when the Argentinian David Nalbandian had secured a 4-2 advantage.

Murray pumped his fist in that maniacal manner of his; mum Judy leapt to her feet and did likewise; so, too, his father Willie; and yes, even, the former 007 was moved to raise his arms in exaltation, the proud Scot beaming with the vicarious pleasure of it all. It would be the first such incident of many over three hours and 12 minutes as the Murray's fortunes swung like a pendulum.

When you are regarded as "the greatest living Scotsman", it requires a great deal before you are prepared to renounce that claim. Yesterday, Connery may just have been prepared to bequeath it to this young pretender ­ no matter that after a compelling five sets Murray's first week here as a senior will provide him with only memories rather than the fourth-round place he craved.

And so we witnessed the departure, though one suspects only for the moment, of this gangling character with the size 12 tennis shoes which, with one leg carrying a black brace to protect his injured left ankle, gave the appearance of a deep sea diver's boot in comparison to the twinkle toes of his rival. It did not weigh him down in the first two sets, but by the third he was looking decidedly weary.

Even so, the young Scot had his opportunity to vanquish the No 18 seed in the fourth set, but squandered his chance, three times failing to take advantage of break point at 4-4. Exhaustion ultimately told, as we feared it would. But no one will condemn him for that after a performance of guile and fortitude that confirmed the character, if not the stamina, which we already suspected he possessed. It was also testimony to Nalbandian's resolve. This was the first occasion the 2002 finalist, who eventually triumphed 6-71-6 6-0 6-4 6-1, had recovered from a two-set deficit.

"I'm a little bit disappointed because my legs were really knackered," admitted Murray. "I couldn't move towards the end, and I was annoyed that I couldn't keep going in the fifth set. I know I can play well now and can compete with some of the best guys; physically I'm not so strong, but that's not surprising, considering I'm only 18."

The 18-year-old from Dunblane had prophesied that he would "lose comfortably" to the "Argie ace" ­ as our best-selling daily tabloid had referred to Nalbandian, just about resisting any temptation to portray the confrontation as a re-run of the Falklands conflict.

Nalbandian recognised that Centre Court would be a hostile environment. But he would not be disappointed, particularly when Murray's cause was done no favours by two corrected line-calls (both correct) which drew barracking from his supporters and an expression of pique from the Scot.

There were occasions when there was a serious danger that this would be an occasion to re-hoist the headline "Gotcha!", a belief which was encouraged by the opening games in which Murray began falteringly, broke his opponent, was then broken himself twice in succession, but recovered superbly to secure the set 7-4 in a tie-break.

From the moment Murray secured his first point, he stirred the imagination of a crowd whose jingoistic expectations for the year had apparently evaporated with the exit of Tim Henman. Serves were broken and yielded with absurd abandon ­ six in all ­ before the Scot eventually claimed that first set.

His serve initially had been awry too frequently, suggesting an over-anxiety about his play on his first appearance within this awe-inspiring theatre; but by the second set, with Nalbandian apparently mentally unravelling, the sheer power of Murray's serve and the velocity and variety of his forehand and backhand as he dispatched some splendidly deft shots, had combined so effectively that a 6-1 scoreline in no way flattered him.

But with Centre Court ready to acclaim a seemingly impossible statement of intent by this new icon for the second time in three days, following the eclipse of 14th seed Radek Stepanek, Murray's fitness appeared to betray him. Having been broken in the second game of the third set, he conceded it to love. Though he had his chances to secure that fourth round place in the following set, there was a certain inevitability about his failure to do so as he capitulated 6-4. Thereafter the outcome was predictable, with Nalbandian taking the final set 6-1.

It was all in keeping with those agonies to which Henman annually subjects his supporters. Yet here the spectators, clad both in versions of the Union flag and the Saltire, could offer their exhortations to a player who appears to thrive on expectation in the knowledge that their man will undoubtedly return an improved player next year.

It is to detract nothing from the emergence of Murray to say that the forced abdication of Britain's Centre Court favourite has been almost indecently hasty. Where does he go now, Tim the untitled? Into exile, as his place is usurped by Andrew the teenager? Hardly. If anything, you imagine that as Murray's ascendancy from accomplished junior to aspiring senior continues apace it will galvanise the 30-year-old into at least one more herculean effort here.

From his young fellow Briton who exudes so great a talent, you anticipate, there will be many more to come.