Briton does a Lampard in his own shoot-out to end this year's dream
Tuesday 04 July 2006
After the Lord Mayor's Show that was Murray v Roddick on Saturday, the Lord Mayor yesterday forgot to turn up, or at least found that when he did, a fellow called Marcos Baghdatis had pinched his moment in the sun.
It was not that Andy Murray played too badly yesterday in succumbing to the irrepressible Greek-Cypriot, although he all too rarely scaled Saturday's scintillating heights. It was more that in Baghdatis, he met a man inspired.
"Flower of Scotland" might be the old song Murray likes best, but the old song here was "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better". Baghdatis, the 18th seed, served harder, returned better, volleyed more deeply, drop-shotted more deftly. The players' respective drop-shots, indeed, summed up the gulf between them. Murray's were disguised about as convincingly as a man in a Groucho Marx mask; his opponent's, on the other hand, were much harder to spot, more evocative of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Yet there was a period early in the second set when it looked as if we might have a real battle in store, as Murray powered to a 4-1 lead and Baghdatis, who looks like a man just a little too fond of his kleftiko, was made to scurry. Alas, Murray lost the next six games and after that never appeared likely to regain the upper hand. At 1-1 and game point in the third set he missed the easiest of volleys, an absolute sitter. Not since Gary McAllister missed a penalty against England in Euro '96 can Scotland have issued such a collective groan, the difference being that this time England groaned, too.
And even though he went on to win the game, it was symptomatic of his day.
Splendidly as Baghdatis played, Murray had plenty of opportunities.
Afterwards, he was harder on himself than he perhaps needed to be. "I didn't feel like I put up any resistance today," he said, dejectedly. "Definitely didn't deserve to win the match... I didn't feel nervous, I was just struggling to get myself going. Very difficult to explain. I don't know exactly what happened.
"It's happened a couple of times before, and I need to try to cut matches like that out, especially in Grand Slams, because that's where you want to play your best tennis, and you want to play better as the two weeks progress."
He talked as if defeat had been inevitable from the earliest exchanges, but he is anything but a quitter, and in the third set gave the Centre Court crowd a glimmer of hope that he might yet dig deep enough if not to reach Australia, then at least to reach an Australian, in the form of Lleyton Hewitt, who will now meet Baghdatis in the quarter-final.
Murray would surely have been reinvigorated had he won the tie-break, but as he prepared for the tennis equivalent of the penalty shoot-out, minds turned not to Scottish penalties but English ones. It was 48 hours since England's footballers had toiled in Gelsenkirchen, and I doubt whether I was the only person in the crowd wondering whether the teenager would do an Owen Hargreaves, or a Frank Lampard.
It was the latter. His first serve was a double-fault, and a few points later he produced another one. The dream - ours as much as his - was over for another year. But this resolute young Scotsman no longer reminds anyone here of the gauche, gawky, star of Gregory's Girl. Nor is he convincingly cast as Braveheart. Centre Court now knows him as a Local Hero.
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