With James Bond on his side, Andy Murray should not fear anybody. Sean Connery is one of the world No 3's biggest fans and Murray yesterday interrupted his preparations for his fourth-round match here today against Stanislas Wawrinka to take a call from the actor, who wanted to congratulate him on his emphatic three-sets victory over Viktor Troicki the previous evening. "Much nicer than someone trying to sell you a phone upgrade," Murray later told his website in typically understated fashion.
The 22-year-old Scot was clearly in relaxed mood both on and off the practice court. Having made an unduly early start after his dog, Maggie, leapt on his bed when he was fast asleep– "She's not bothered by Wimbledon," he said – Murray spent a good part of his lunchtime practice session playing head tennis with members of his entourage. On most of the other practice courts players were engaged in some seriously heavy-duty hitting.
Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam event which pauses for breath on the middle Sunday, underlining the feeling that the second week here is like a new beginning. Sixteen players are left in both the men's and women's singles and everyone plays today, with Murray in his customary role as the third match on Centre Court.
Does this week feel like a new start? "People say that," Murray said. "It is a little bit different for the guys who have had a couple of days off. For them they've got a bit more of a break, but I'll prepare for this match the way I've done for the other ones. The only difference is that the matches are obviously going to get a bit tougher the further you go in the tournament." Wawrinka, a 24-year-old Swiss, should provide Murray with his stiffest test yet. Although the world No 18 prefers to play on clay, he reached this stage here last year and has a decent all-round game. He came to the All England Club as the man who had finished off Rafael Nadal's chances of defending his title.
Wawrinka beat the Spaniard in an exhibition event at Hurlingham three days before the start of Wimbledon, after which Nadal announced that his knee problem had not improved sufficiently for him to play here. Murray and Wawrinka, who are good friends and frequently practise together, have played each other seven times, but although Wawrinka has beaten him on three occasions the statistic is misleading in terms of their match-up here. Two of Wawrinka's wins were on clay, the first of them in Murray's debut Davis Cup singles rubber four years ago, and the Scot suffered an ankle injury during the third, in Miami in 2006.
They have met twice in the last 12 months, Murray winning on both occasions, most recently in the fourth round of last year's US Open.
"He's a very solid all-court player," Murray said. "He's got a solid serve and moves well. He's good off the baseline. He doesn't come to the net too much, but he won the Olympic gold medal in doubles, so he can obviously volley reasonably well when he does. He does everything well. He doesn't have one shot in particular that's a huge weakness. I'm going to have to play a tough match to beat him."
Wawrinka is a naturally aggressive player and believes he will need to attack whenever possible and maintain his recent improvement on his serve. What did he think was the key to beating Murray? "I think you need to play your best match," he said. "In the past 12 months he has been playing very well. He's No 3 in the world and playing incredibly, so you just need to be focused on your game. If my serve is here, I have a chance to do some good work."
Murray prefers playing later in the day and loves playing on Centre Court, which is a good job as this will be his 14th match there in succession. The last time he played anywhere else at Wimbledon was against Radek Stepanek on No 1 Court four years ago.
"You can get into a nice routine of playing on the same court, at the same time," Murray said. "You prepare the same for every match. It's always nice playing third. The crowds are very good. The atmosphere's been great.
"They know tennis here. With each match obviously there's slightly more importance each time. They get behind me a little bit more. In the first match, when I did lose a set against [Robert] Kendrick, they got behind me when they needed to. Every time I've been down in break points or down in games they've always been very good. I've noticed the difference in the matches."
He added: "I like the respect during the points for both the players. It's always pretty much silent when you're hitting serves here. When you go to the US Open there's always noise. For me it's always that quietness that's made it special to me. You can tell all the focus is on what's going on at the court.
"It makes it easier to steady yourself sometimes. You just take your time, even though you know the whole crowd's there. They understand the importance of the tournament, of each match and of the big points."
Murray insisted he was not thinking beyond his next match. "I'll just have to play my game and play it very well," he said. "I need to make sure I'm playing good tennis. I'm playing smart and serving well. Then I can win. I can't afford to worry about who I might be playing in the quarters or semi-finals. If I take my eye off the ball against someone like Stan I'm going to lose. I just need to focus on that match and make sure I do what I've been doing so far in the tournament."
Has he been affected by the growing interest in his matches of the media and public? "The hype makes absolutely zero difference at all to the way you perform on court because it's hype. It's what everybody else is saying. It's not what I'm saying. It's what the press are writing and people are saying to me. I understand the position that I'm in. I need to play my best to win. I'm going to try and do my best to do that."
Head to head: Scot edges into the lead
US Open, Murray won 6-1, 6-3, 6-3
ATP Masters Canada, Murray won 6-2, 0-6, 6-4
ATP Masters Rome, Wawrinka won 6-2, 7-6
Open 13 Marseilles, Murray won 3-6, 7-6, 6-1
Qatar Open, Murray won 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
ATP Masters Miami, Wawrinka won 7-5, 3-6, 6-4
Davis Cup: Wawrinka won 6-3, 7-6, 6-4
Totals: Murray 4 Wawrinka 3
*Paths to the fourth round:
Kendrick 7-5, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4; Gulbis 6-2, 7-5, 6-3; Troicki 6-2, 6-3, 6-4
Schwank 7-5, 6-4, 6-1; Arguello 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; Levine 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3