Britain's matinée idol forgets the script but stages absorbing show

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The Independent Online

Against Julien Benneteau on a packed and partisan Centre Court yesterday evening, Murray lost his third service game to love, finally succumbing with an attempted drop shot so feeble that my great aunt Madge could have improved upon it, if I had a great aunt Madge. And yet the teenager played dazzlingly three games later to break Benneteau to love.

Murray duly won the first set on a tie-break, but early in the second set handed the Frenchman points by repeating aunt Madge's drop shot, to which he responded by angrily bashing the ground and at one stage the net with his racket. Later, he issued what the BBC genteelly describes as an "audible obscenity". Centre Court will see and hear a great deal more of the best and worst of Murray before he is done.

But what will he have achieved by then? During the youngster's thrilling run last year, I asked Murray whether he would be satisfied if his career at Wimbledon ended with a record like Tim Henman's, of never quite making it through to finals day? Yes, he said, he would. But only if he won at least one other Grand Slam. It was a good answer, combining respect for Henman with a show of fierce ambition. And who would have thought that within a few months, Murray would have beaten both Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt on his way to his first title at San Jose in February? For the British public, however, it is only his Wimbledon feats that count.

Not to mention his feet. Murray has an Achilles' heel and it's his ankle, on which he wore the customary brace yesterday, although it didn't seem to help when he took a couple of tumbles in the second set. He wasn't alone. His opponent, too, ended up on his backside. As did a ballboy. Not even Torvill and Dean could have stayed upright.

Happily, Murray had not damaged himself, and gradually seemed to take charge of the match, overcoming a 3-0 deficit to win the second set 6-4. All this was accompanied by much pumping of the fist. As has been widely acknowledged, Murray looks born to the fist-pump, whereas Henman's always seemed manufactured, and it is interesting to see how differently the Centre Court crowd responds.

With pigeons, alas, the crowd is all too predictable. When a couple landed in the tramlines, it roared like the first-night audience at Run For Your Wife. Still, one shouldn't mock. There was a cloudless sky, the tennis was absorbing and, in this resolute young Scotsman, Wimbledon has a new matinée idol. Unfortunately, he keeps forgetting the script. Despite leading 4-2, he lost the third set 6-4 in fading light. The show resumes today.