James Lawton: Federer won't be worried just yet

It was never going to be a saunter in the strawberry fields. It never is, winning this title on behalf of a pining and essentially dysfunctional tennis nation, and nobody was more aware of this than Andy Murray.

Now the reality is out there and it was such a shock to some members of the Murraymania faction they only remembered to provide a proper level of support in the Centre Court when their new hero, the last British male standing after just two days, lost a second set tie-breaker to an opponent who was supposed to curl up and die.

Murray was reminded of a truth he has been trying to absorb with each stride up the rankings of the world game: there are only so many times you can tell yourself, or be told, that you have everything needed to win the tournament that has been making a dwarf of the British men for 73 years.

Then you have to go out on to the Centre Court and prove that it is really true.

For Murray here last night the problem was that, not for the first time in his career, Robert Kendrick, a 29-year-old, ill-considered Californian who had won just three matches in 12 major tournaments, decided that he was not without a few of his own virtues.

One of them is that once in a while he can take on the best of tennis talent, and the biggest of names, and look, for a little while at least, as if he is quite where he belongs.

He did it here three years ago when he ambushed Rafael Nadal by winning the first two sets. Against Murray, he didn't quite manage such an opening blitzkrieg, but when Murray lurched from one crisis of confidence to another, including a frayed conversation with the umpire after he was denied a call challenge – which he would have lost – Kendrick found the nerve to sweep to a second set tie-break victory.

It was a moment of troubling reality for Murray in a march to the pinnacle of the game that had begun to look like something of a dream sequence. A superb triumph for him at Queen's, the first for a British player in 71 years, was followed by the disappearance of the favourite Nadal with injury.

All that was barring his way, it seemed, to a moment of national sporting history was the renovated brilliance of Roger Federer. Last night, though, there were a few additional complications, on top of the fact that Federer, programmed to make his own impact on posterity with his sixth Wimbledon title and record-breaking 15th major, produced some moments of god-like brilliance on the first day.

Twenty-four hours later Murray was inhabiting different, and, it has to be said, much less elevated strata. Quite a lot of this had to do with Kendrick's seizing of his rare moment in the eye of of the world's greatest tournament. The American was serving so well, and displaying such a breezy sense of equality with a player ranked 73 places above him, that a lot of Centre Court – and Murray – certainties seemed to be draining away.

Such difficulties seemed to a thousand miles away when Murray came into the game with maximum confidence – though a surprisingly muted reception from the crowd that used to respond so wildly to the strivings of Tim Henman.

If this was mania, you had to believe that pretty massive tranquillisers had been prescribed. Certainly, the old passion for Henman seemed like a rather quaint memory, even when Murray's opening service games brimmed with controlled venom.

Murray broke Kendrick in the first game, and with such perfectly placed artillery fire, that his opponent seemed beaten before the battle had begun and it was not hard to believe he was about to make a massive statement of his intentions. A statement, moreover, filled with all the most optimistic assumptions about his ability to deal with the pressures that had been building around his head for the last few years.

While Murray picked his shots, Kendrick surrendered his serve in the worst possible way with a double-fault. That surely signalled an evening of easily gathered confidence for Murray.

Soon enough, though, it was clear something was not quite right with the pride of Dunblane. A man he had once swept aside 6-0, 6-0 on grass, was, in fact, not about to bend his head willingly to the killing strokes. Kendrick began to play with a bite that often comes to men who believe they have nothing to lose but their chains.

Murray, inevitably, produced moments of brilliance and he recovered his composure well to carry the first set 7-5. Unfortunately, Kendrick, who complained of a desperate hangover after that wipeout by Murray in Miami, was not prepared to be discarded like some jaded cocktail, and when he took the second set tie-breaker and continued to go for some dramatically realised shots, Murray was required to stay in the trenches to win in four sets.

He knew by now that whatever happened in the next week or so it was unlikely to be quite the serene passage to an appointment with Federer that so many have been taking rather for granted.

No, the tournament was strewn with rather more of a challenge than that and it was a fact which could not be obliterated by his regaining of the edge in the third and fourth sets. Kendrick's challenge might have been ebbing, but he was still able to play enough winning shots, and produce sufficient moments of aggressive force, to question some of the more confident belief in Murray's destiny.

In the end the man who believes he can scale Wimbledon was right to say, "I wasn't pleased with some of my groundstrokes, but I served well and, most important of all, I won." In British tennis such a statement will, surely, always be weighed in gold.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own