In Cardiff they were the enemy, but in SW19 an Aussie was being cheered towards victory. John Peers was easily his nation’s most popular sportsman in the UK – because he was partnering Jamie Murray in the men’s doubles semi-finals.
Murray – elder brother of you-know-who – and his Aussie partner faced Philipp Petzschner, of Germany, and Argentine-born Israeli Jonathan Erlich.
Having put out two higher-ranked seeds, including the holders, Murray and Peers were favourites. Petzschner and Erlich were an unseeded pair who were playing their first tournament together. Both, however, were experienced doubles players and Murray and his Ocker mate lost the first set.
However, with Erlich troubled by a knee injury, the No 13 seeds, playing some slick doubles tennis, raced to an increasingly one-sided victory 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
In Saturday’s final they will play fourth-seeded Horia Tecau, of Romania, and Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer – a close friend of the Murrays, close enough to be invited to Andy’s wedding this year.
“It is a great result,” said 29-year-old Jamie. “We got off to a slow start, especially me and my serve, and it took us a while to get momentum. It helped that John [Erlich] was struggling with his knee, but obviously this is a Wimbledon semi-final so you have to put it out of your mind.
“This is our third year together – which for doubles is a long time, as most guys seem to fall out – but we stuck at it and are getting our rewards.”
Peers, 26, added: “It is like a marriage, you spend that much time together. You have to enjoy the ride, if there are more ups than downs you enjoy it more.”
Doubles players, as Independent columnist Nick Bollettieri noted earlier this week, tend to be players whose singles careers failed to progress.
Of this quartet Petzschner reached 35th in the world in 2009 but is now ranked 421. Erlich reached 292 but is no longer ranked, Peers is 456th and Murray 834th. Obviously, had they been more focused on their singles careers they would have been ranked higher, but they would probably not have been playing a semi-final on Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
Murray, a mixed doubles winner here with Jelena Jankovic in 2007, was slowest to settle. He survived going 0-40 down on his first service but he and Peers could not recover from the same predicament in his second. The Israeli-German pair went on to take the first set 6-4 in 30 minutes.
The Ashes duo responded well, breaking Petzschner immediately in the second set, then surviving a break point on Murray’s serve to take a 3-0 lead. Peers served for the set at 5-3, which he duly won. The pattern was repeated in the third with Petzschner broken and Peers serving out.
In the fourth Erlich, so hampered by his knee he was not even sitting down at the changeovers, was immediately broken. Murray and Peers had the momentum and at 5-2 the Scot served out to love. He’s in the final – over to you, Andy.