The day I melted on Murray Mound

There's no roof to protect ticketless fans from the sun at Wimbledon. Cahal Milmo joins the sweltering faithful

"No mercy Andy, make it quick", shouted the puce-faced man to my left, before emptying a £3 bottle of official Wimbledon mineral water over his head. They were common sentiments on Murray Mound as Britain's great tennis hope strode on to Centre Court at 2.16pm in 41C of merciless heat.

About 5,000 people crowded on to sport's most famous hillock yesterday, anticipating an epic battle of brains and brawn similar to that played out between Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka on Monday night, in the clammy crucible created by the debut of Centre Court's £80m retractable roof.

In the end, the 22-year-old Scot contributed considerably less sweat to his triumph than I did.

After securing one of the prized spaces in front of the giant television screen, it became clear that the same etiquette which applies to watching tennis on a court (no one moves until a break in play) also applies among the mound's Murray Maniacs.

Alison Murphy, 43, an estate agent from Brighton and a mound resident for the last three tournaments, set out the rules: "Cheer lots. Wave your hands when they show us on telly. But don't even think about moving until the end of the first set."

As Murray trotted through the first set in his quarter-final against former world No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, aka the Mosquito, I sat trapped in my three square feet of burning viewing terrace, not knowing whether to cheer another forehand winner or open a bidding war for my neighbour's second bottle of ice-cold dousing water. As the mercury nudged 30C (and hit 41C on court), a £20 offer was rebuffed. "Add a zero and we can talk," came the response.

The mysterious disappearance of 28 members of Wimbledon staff with supposed flu-like symptoms seemed suddenly explicable – heat wave aversion.

Mercifully, the man from Dunblane duly obliged the entreaties to be quick and averted a human hog roast on his eponymous hill. After one hour and 41 minutes of increasingly swashbuckling tennis, Murray hit an unplayable serve at 4.57pm and in so doing played his way into his first Wimbledon semi-final, beating Ferrero in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. The Mosquito, so-called for his sinuous speed, had been swatted.

On the mound, the woman behind me opened a molten Penguin and calmly drank its contents in celebration. St John's Ambulance said it had treated 117 spectators for heat-related ailments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the highest figure so far this Wimbledon.

Inside Centre Court, the onward march of Murray had attracted the traditional range of celebrity tennis fans.

Kate Winslet and her husband, Sam Mendes, watched largely impassively from the royal box. Miss Scotland 2009 cheered vigorously at almost every opportunity. The fact that the newly crowned Katharine Brown, 22, was a classmate of the star at primary school in Dunblane and his mother once coached her at tennis may have had something to do with her enthusiasm.

The man himself, however, maintained his trademark levelheadedness in the face of the gathering tidalwave of expectation from the hoi polloi on the hill and the glitterati that Britain is just two matches away from its first men's Wimbledon champion in 73 years. Two tickets for Sunday's final were last night being offered on eBay for £6,950.

As well as receiving messages of support from the Queen and Sean Connery, Murray said he had received a note from Cliff Richard yesterday. And after neatly sidestepping a question about whether he would support England or Australia in the Ashes, Murray declared himself unbothered by the weight of expectation upon him. "It doesn't make any difference [to] the way you perform, the hype. If you ignore it, you don't realise it's happening," he said after the match.

On the mound, there was perhaps a sense that the Anglo-Saxon enthusiasm for the once prickly Scot was yet to burst into a full-scale love affair.

Amid the waving Union Flags, there was only one banner with a full-blooded declaration of passion. It read: "Sue Barker will you marry me." Then again, perhaps, like me, the true fanatics were too busy sprinting to the shade and a water tap to care.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London