Patience rewarded with a thrilling late night of high drama

Wimbledon

So that is how to get Andy Murray across the finishing line at Wimbledon. Threaten to turn out the lights. Welcome to the pleasure dome. This was tennis in the big top, a raucous night of thrills and spills a million miles from the strawberries and cream on which so much of Wimbledon's identity is built. What a change the roof has wrought, not only on the atmosphere on Centre Court, but on the performance of Murray.

It is an absurdity of English bureaucratic life that the players should be sprinting between points to beat the curfew imposed by the local residents in SW19; no fun after 11pm in leafy Merton. Health and safety. Murray won't mind. A match that he turned into a monumental struggle swung his way when the play went inside.

The Mexican wave is a tricky business in a frock but for Andy the gels were prepared to go for it, to risk trapping their tailored plumes in the posh seats as all hell broke loose. The audience had waited all day for this. They sat patiently through the anti-climax of what might be the last appearance on Centre Court of Andy Roddick, who lost in four and in the best of the weather to David Ferrer. Before that Serena Williams slugged her way past Zheng Jie, winning 9-7 in the third. But this was a different order of engagement; the main event on Saturday night, Murray's passage to the business end of the tournament.

Murray is every inch the 6ft 3in, 200 pounder, dimensions that would make him a super heavyweight at the coming Olympic boxing tournament, which is precisely the rating he is seeking in tennis. He has developed an impressive musculature. The bicep flex is not new. What we are looking for is the transference of that impressive physicality to the mental realm.

Marcos Baghdatis reached the Australian Open final in 2006 and the semis at Wimbledon, a run that included a fourth-round, straight-set schooling of 19-year-old Murray. Though a player of obvious talent he is seen more as a curiosity than a contender these days.

But as we saw with Lukas Rosol against Rafael Nadal, Centre Court has the power to inspire as well as enervate. Until the players left a darkening court with the match level at one set all Baghdatis was a live opponent, swinging like it was 2006 all over again. He engineered two break points in the seventh game that would have taken him to 5-3 and a chance to serve for the first set. He didn't take them but he was still the aggressor.

Up in the royal box the grandees of British sport looked down on the spectacle. Sir Bobby Charlton, England's cricket captain Andrew Strauss, Manchester United veteran and prospective Olympian Ryan Giggs, iron-willed champions who have learned how to harness nerves and doubt and channel them into productive performance under the cosh. Murray has the game of Italy or Spain yet sets up like Roy Hodgson's England, narrow, risk-averse and passive.

When he chooses to flick the switch the gear change is impressive, evidenced by the fury with which he served out the first set. At 2-1 ahead with a break in the second, the platform was there but Murray's confidence collapsed allowing Baghdatis to come raging back into the match. The break worked for Murray on this occasion. The light faded in Baghdatis as well as the sky. Next time Murray might not be so lucky.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash