'Everyone loves a fighter' says Lloyd as public won over

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The Independent Online

Deep in his heart of hearts John Lloyd, just like Judy Murray, knows that today's events on Centre Court should not – if tennis logic prevails – go the British No 1's way. "Is this a year too soon?" he asked yesterday, which rather suggested he thought it was. "I think we're still two to three years short of Andy playing at his best."

But the manner of Andy Murray's victory over Richard Gasquet in the fourth round has swept all logic aside. Lloyd perceived, in the Briton's sheer, bloody-minded refusal to accept defeat on Monday night a quality he saw in Jimmy Connors and has observed in few men since. This has at a stroke, Lloyd believes, converted the British public to Murray's cause and will create a different atmosphere today to the one which greeted Murray for the first few sets on against Gasquet. "[Many said] 'we're not sure about him yet'. But if you come back from that... Everyone loves fighters," Lloyd said.

Murray, like Connors and perhaps Lleyton Hewitt, has now demonstrated that he never concedes, Lloyd said. "That, to me, is what was special [about Murray] and Hewitt's got it. Hewitt is not quite as vocal as Connors but it's the same kind of thing. You look across the net and he's still saying: 'You've still got to beat me; you've still got to get the last point'. It's really fearsome when someone's got that. It's going to keep him in very good stead for the next 10 years because you can't coach that."

The points of comparisons grew richer. Lloyd also alluded to the great Roy Emerson, who always prepared to be able to hit top gear in the fifth set. "I thought Andy played his best in the fifth," Lloyd said. "That was great indication of how the training has worked and when he did the bicep-thing I thought that was almost the message, 'I'm catching you up.' He's got a way to go but it was semi-Popeye."

Tim Henman, despite commanding 13-million audiences on television for some of his epic Wimbledon battles – a level which Murray (an unexpected high of 10.5m on Monday) has yet to reach – never quite delivered such qualities. But he, too, has an inkling that Murray can prevail if he plays with intensity. "His body language and his attitude have been the key to that because he has kept fighting all the time," Henman said. "The Gasquet match was a great one to turn around. But his demeanour has been the biggest positive. He's been very composed and also he's working so hard."

Like Lloyd, Mark Petchey, one of Murray's former coaches, believes that his spirit has had redemptive qualities where a mildly suspicious British public is concerned. "I hope it really dispelled any of the thoughts people have about him in terms of his competitiveness, his desire to win and also his ability to play great tennis. I think the crowd fell in love with him. It takes a match like that."

But will a partisan Wimbledon crowd affect Rafael Nadal in the slightest? The Spanish media contingent have been struggling, amid the Euro 2008 euphoria, to make themselves heard at home but the manner of Murray's progress did not have too many flinching yesterday. "He [Nadal] has had Davis Cup experiences, the Paris finals with [Roger] Federer where all are against him," said Diario Sport's Neus Yerro. "Nadal will not be affected by that. They have both grown but the difference this year is that Rafa is playing grass naturally. He does not have to think every time before choosing his shot."

There is some discussion in Spain about the strain Nadal sustained to the back of his right knee during his own fourth-round tie with Mikhail Youzhny. There was no indication from the Nadal camp that this might be a problem, though, and it is in Murray's own hands to progress. With either the unseeded Arnaud Clement or Rainer Schüttler awaiting the winner in the semi-final – making the final quite achievable for today's victor – all the incentives are there.