It wasn't all that long ago that Andy Murray could impress for a while in a tournament and then falter. And now? Through consistent improvement to all areas of his body and his game, he has just a bit too much in his locker for the vast majority of opponents.
On Saturday night, as the clouds gathered over Centre Court (and over Viktor Troicki's hopes in particular), it was Murray's serve that drew gasps of admiration. The stats say 88 per cent of Murray's first-service points were won, and that got as high 94 per cent in the third and final set. But what the stats don't tell you is the power, placement and variety of the serves.
Andy now has the Bomb, the Slider and the Kicker in his service tool kit and he's mixing them up wonderfully. The Bomb is the pure power serve, the Slider does what it says on the tin and the Kicker is more prevalent on second serve, which is generally excellent. Andy is leaving opponents with very few options on his serve. He hit 17 aces on Saturday and the only sensible reaction to most of them was a whistle.
The variety in his game is illustrated by the stats. Among 37 winners, there were aces, service winners, three volleyed winners, two smashes, an approach winner, a passing winner, three drops and seven drives.
Physically and mentally the street fighter is starting to settle into a winning rhythm, and quite frankly he's making the other guys and their coaches afraid of facing him. At the same time, he's coping tremendously well with the pressure of being the British favourite. He's so cool, it's impressive.
Stanislas Wawrinka is friendly with Andy but I don't think this will have any bearing on the match. Wawrinka's strengths are his fantastic groundstrokes, his backhand, his power and his big serve. His weakness, in my opinion, is between the ears, and that's not a good place for any professional sportsman to be susceptible.
He can get emotional when things are not going his way. He has never made the quarters of a Grand Slam and being the outsider against a Brit at Wimbledon isn't going to help his case. I don't hold too much store on their head-to-head record. At 4-3 to Murray it suggests a closeness that doesn't reflect reality. Murray has the more important and more recent wins on surfaces he favours.
Things get tougher for Andy from here on, though, so don't expect a walkover. Pressure is building every day.
Tale of the tape: Andy Murray v Stanislas Wawrinka
Andy Murray vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
British Nationality Swiss
22 Age 24
Dunblane Place of birth Lausanne
Surrey Residence St Barthelemy
2005 Turned pro 2002
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 3in Height 6ft
84kg Weight 78kg
No 3 World ranking No 18
No 3 Wimbledon seeding No 19
12 Career titles 1
£3.6m Career prize-money £1.5m
W12 L3 Wimbledon record W8 L4
QF (2008) Wimbledon best 4R (2008, 09)
1-14 Odds 8-1
Head-to-head: Murray leads 4-3
Bollettieri's prediction: Murray in no more than four
Win a week in Florida at my tennis academy
*Want a week's tennis holiday at my academy in Florida? Included in the prize is five days' top-class tuition, accommodation in our poolside clubhouse, and all meals. The winner arranges the travel. All you have to do is email to tell me who will win today's big match. I want a specific score line and, as a tie-breaker, a one-sentence summary of the manner in which your pick will win. At the end of the tournament, all the daily winners will go into a hat, and one overall winner will be chosen. Friday's winner was Gary Goodger, and Saturday's was Ido (who gave no surname). Both go into the hat. Email me at: email@example.com
I look forward to meeting the winner.
My boy Tommy Haas chewed up Cilic
People have said that Tommy Haas, now 31, has had trouble at times closing out big matches. I'd agree that he should probably have won against Roger Federer in the fourth round at the French Open from two sets up, and should have won earlier in the match against Marin Cilic in the third round here. He had two match points in the fourth set and let them go. Yet in an exciting showdown on Saturday, Tommy, who lives at my academy, dug deep to get through 10-8 in the fifth.
But holy cow! He sure made his fiancée suffer. Sara Foster was chewing and playing with her gum so nervously it looked like she had it all over her nose and ears! Tommy's run indicates to me he's got a couple of good years left. He'll need variety of play today against Igor Andreev.
Ivanovic at a crossroads
Ana Ivanovic has an opportunity today – a daunting one – to get back into the ball game in terms of restating her claim to be a serious contender on the biggest stages. She faces Venus Williams and this could be a huge day for her. If she won, she'd stop the talk that she's a good player whose one Slam win to date (Paris, 2008) gave her a greatness that she hasn't and cannot sustain. But Venus looks so comfortable on the grass that I have to make her my tip, in a maximum of three sets, two if she can eradicate forehand errors.
Venus is the better server, has the better movement, she's stronger and she comes to the net more. In the other Williams match, Serena plays Daniela Hantuchova, who needs self-belief in heaps to give her a chance.
I'm happy for Bollettieri big hitters
I'm delighted that two other players with Bollettieri connections – Sabine Lisicki and Ivo Karlovic – are through to today's fourth round. Sabine lives and trains at the academy and her play is based wholly on that huge serve (it's as big as any in the game) and her huge shots. That's her game, and it shook Svetlana Kuznetsova. Sabine also takes the ball very early and that knocked Kuznetsova off balance.
I have two concerns for Sabine as she faces Caroline Wozniacki. Will she handle the emotional side of the occasion? I hope so. And will she serve big and keep the points short? The longer that the ball's in play, the more that will favour Wozniacki. Today is all about Sabine's serve working.
Karlovic is a great guy, who trained with us for a month recently. Fernando Verdasco will face a bombardment of aces, and touches of variety. Good luck, Ivo.
Improve your game: Backhand down the line
*For all players out there, I invite you to email me your tennis problems and I'll try to help. Today's question comes from Chris, who asks: "Which stance would you recommend for hitting a backhand down the line?" My answer, Chris, would depend on what kind of player you are, but I'd most often advise the neutral stance for starters. (The four hitting stances are neutral, open, semi-open and closed). It's all in Bollettieri's Tennis Handbook, or Google "neutral stance" and Bollettieri together).
Snapshots from 53 years as a top tennis coach
*M is for Music, as in making sweet music by combining individual talents. It's what happens in a symphony orchestra and in a great jazz band, and working in harmony makes sweet sporting music in tennis too. Andy Murray has evidently hired himself a roadshow of people that perform unbelievably well together to help him win. On a real musical note, Andre Agassi got his manager, Bill Shelton, to sing Nat King Cole tunes to him in the locker room. My own tastes include Barry White, Barry Gibb, Saturday Night Fever and a bunch of things from the 1970s.
*N is for New York, the city of my birth, in 1931, and a place dear to my heart, not least because of the US Open, which along with Wimbledon, still gives me the biggest buzzes. N is also for Nicholas James Bollettieri (that's me), son of James (Jim) and Mary. They raised me in our Italian neighbourhood of north Pelham, NYC, with the right values, that people should pull together. Teamwork and support are vital whether you're in an office, writing for a newspaper, or if you're a tennis player.Reuse content