Murray approaches top gear as he sets up rematch with Gasquet

British No 1 reprises through-the-legs half-volley winner under the Centre Court roof

The rain keeps falling but Andy Murray's stock keeps rising.

The 24-year-old Scot played under the Centre Court roof here last night for the second time in the tournament and after a highly entertaining match of rapidly fluctuating fortunes became the first of the big four favourites to reach the second week.

While Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, was among those left frustrated by another damp end to the day at the All England Club, Murray booked his place in the fourth round by beating Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6. It is the fifth year in a row that Murray has successfully negotiated the first three rounds here and on Monday he will cross swords again with Richard Gasquet, the Frenchman he beat with a thrilling back-from-the-dead victory at the same stage here three years ago.

While the vast majority of competitors have never played under the Centre Court roof, this was Murray's third taste of the conditions. With variable weather predicted in the coming days, that could be an important factor, as is the fact that Murray, unlike many of his rivals, has completed all three of his opening matches on schedule.

For Ljubicic it was a new experience on two counts. Not only was it the first time he had played under the roof but it was also his first appearance on Centre Court on his 12th visit. The 32-year-old Croatian, who was the oldest man left in the tournament, has never progressed beyond the third round here, which is a surprise given his game.

The world No 33 has a big serve, is not afraid to come into the net and moves surprisingly well considering his 6ft 4in frame. The Croatian, who had won three of his six previous matches against Murray, also has one of the most powerful single-handed backhands in the business.

Given the higher quality of the opponent, this was a significant step up from Murray's two previous performances. If there were passages of play when Ljubicic's excellent hitting knocked Murray out of his rhythm, at other times the Scot was at his sumptuous best.

In the closing stages in particular he hit some glorious passing shots, relishing the opportunity to take on Ljubicic as the Croatian tried to shorten the points by attacking the net. In the final set he even produced a reprise of the extraordinary through-the-legs half-volley winner (right) he first showcased at Queen's Club a fortnight ago.

"It was just in the right position," Murray said afterwards. "I tried it at Queen's and a couple of times in practice and I haven't missed one yet. You look like a plonker when you do so I'm glad I made it."

In the humid conditions both men had plenty of success on their first serves but both struggled on the second as the heavier balls made it easier for the returner to attack.

The tone for a match of regular momentum swings was set at the beginning. Having hit six aces in his first three service games and forced four break points when Ljubicic served at 2-3, Murray seemed in complete control, only to play a ragged game and give the Croatian the first break. It was to the Scot's good fortune that Ljubicic followed up with an even worse service game, including two double faults, as Murray levelled at 4-4.

Two games later he broke again after two moments of Murray magic, an exquisite lobbed volley followed by a smash and then a heavily-spun lob followed by a forehand winner. Murray, pumping himself up, closed out the set with a big forehand after patiently manoeuvring himself into a winning position.

However, the Scot has had a tendency to follow breaks of serve with a sloppy service game of his own and he did so again at the start of the second set, two double faults helping to let his opponent back into the match as Ljubicic served out for the set.

No sooner had Ljubicic stolen the momentum than Murray ripped it from his grasp again. The Scot, upping his game, took the third set in just 29 minutes after racing into a 5-0 lead as Ljubicic's level dipped sharply.

By the start of the fourth set Murray was playing superbly. Backhand and forehand winners flashed down the line and cross-court, though the pick of his shots – bar the showboating winner through the legs – was another lob. A Ljubicic mishit landed on Murray's baseline, but the Scot responded with a delightful forehand lob that the Croatian did not even bother to chase.

When Murray broke to lead 4-2, Ljubicic netting a volley as he attempted to cut off a crashing forehand down the line, it seemed that the end would be swift, but an enthralling high-quality contest had one final twist in the tail. Murray served for the match at 5-4, but Ljubicic went for broke on his returns and levelled the set at 5-5.

Ljubicic took a 3-2 lead in the tie-break but from that point onwards Murray played a canny game. Two unreturned serves took him into a 4-3 lead and on the next two points he cleverly played himself into a position of strength before enticing Ljubicic into errors. The Croatian saved the first match point with a big forehand return, but on the second Murray followed up a big serve with a winning forehand.

Murray's route to the final

4th round: Richard Gasquet (France, aged 25, world No 13)

Maintained fine run of form with straight-sets win over Simone Bolelli. Lost to Murray here in 2008 and in Paris last year after squandering two-set leads.

Quarter-finals: Gaël Monfils (France, aged 24, world No 8)

Was tied at one set apiece with Lukasz Kubot when play was called off last night. Superb athlete but has never gone beyond third round at Wimbledon.

Semi-finals: Rafael Nadal (Spain, aged 25, world No 1)

Took first set against Gilles Muller last night before rain fell but appeared in discomfort after a fall. Has beaten Murray twice here without losing a set.

Final: Roger Federer (Switzerland, aged 29, world No 3)

Faces an old rival, David Nalbandian, in third round today. Seedings say Djokovic should win semi-final against Federer but the Swiss has won title six times.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee