Dear goodness, the country needed a lift and, with an uncanny juxtaposition, Andrew Murray provided it. While England's footballers were making a balls of the penalty shoot-out against Portugal, Murray was calmly, coolly and, at times, quite brilliantly converting his chances in the tennis equivalent, the tie-break. That set him up for the most famous triumph of his young career and the biggest upset in the 120th championship. At this rate if Henman has a hill Murray will have a monument.
Murray, who declared last week that he would not be shedding a tear if England went out of the World Cup - the response was so hostile he issued a statement saying he didn't really mean it - wore his trademark sweatband in the colours of the Scottish flag. About two and a half hours later he hurled it into the crowd after producing the performance of his life, a sublime victory over Andy Roddick. Murray did not cry "Freedom!" but then he was not the man being hung out to dry. He did not even leap into the warm night air - he held a hand to his face as if he had just lost a point rather than completing a solid, sterling achievement.
To knock Roddick out is one thing, to do so in straight sets-7-6 6-4 6-4 and with a display that was almost as tactically perfect as its execution was something else. Did we say he was Scottish? As somebody pointed out on Murray's new website, once England were out of the World Cup the 19-year-old from Dunblane would be hailed as British and that was exactly the response of the Centre Court crowd who gave him a standing ovation. He deserved every bouquet.
"He is great at picking up every ball, even those an inch off the ground and I'm not sure who to compare him to," Roddick, runner-up here to Roger Federer in the last two years, conceded. Roddick admitted that he was frustrated last night without adding that he was completely outmanoeuvred and out-thought by a teenager who looks like an extra from the film Gregory's Girl.
"It was pretty special," Murray said at a press conference during which he did not break into a smile once. "It's easy to be cool when you're playing like that. I get really annoyed when I'm playing badly because I'm a perfectionist." It was as near to perfection as dammit, Murray confounding Roddick with inch-perfect drop shots, forcing the American into the net where he was at his most uncomfortable.
Roddick, the No 3 seed, had very little control over his volleys so Murray lured him on. Even when the man from Omaha managed to salvage a ball at the net he was exposed to the lob and this shot too was perfectly executed by the Scot.
"McEnroe, will you coach Murray?" read one poster on Centre Court. The extraordinary thing is that Murray's tactical blueprint that destroyed Roddick was drawn up without a coach, Mark Petchey having been dismissed last month.
"I'm not used to being in the locker room when there are only 16 players left," he said. "It's a lot quieter." It's going to get even noisier on court from now on in, beginning tomorrow when Murray plays the Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis for a place in the quarter-finals on Centre Court. "If I play like I did against Roddick then I have a good chance. But you can play great one day and awful the next. This was a very hard game and if he'd converted some of his break points it could have been different."
Murray, aside from the occasional Roddick thunderbolt sent down in excess of 140mph, returned everything, fought for every point and had the canny knack of coming up with the perfect shot when required. The nerve he displayed in executing, in particular the drop shot, was breathtaking. Murray saved nine break points and four set points in the first set, two in the 10th game and two in the 12th. When Murray took the second set with a cracking backhand pass after Roddick had been enticed to the net the roar exceeded anything heard in Germany.
Murray was asked if he was aware of England's predicament against Portugal. "I was watching it before going onto court and I knew Rooney had been sent off and it was 0-0. I'd backed England to win on penalties so I'm disappointed." Not even the hint of a smile but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a sense of humour. Asked what it felt like to be the last Brit in the tournament he pointed out that somebody was flying the flag in the doubles. The perfectionist was pulling our legs.