Murray ready to take another leap forward at Wimbledon

30 June 2014 / 07:49

Andy Murray has grown from boy to man to champion on these lawns, now he's primed and ready to secure his place in the pantheon of Wimbledon greats.

Winning at the All England Club is not easy, as any British tennis fan knows, but defending the title is something else, only legends Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer achieving the feat in the last 40 years.

But Murray has been peerless and relentless in his march through the opening week. There has been a ruthless inevitability to three straight sets and straightforward wins and one should confidently predict more of the same when he takes on Kevin Anderson on Centre Court in Monday's fourth round.

"I love being back in familiar surroundings, it makes me more comfortable," said Murray.

"Just having your friends and family around you and sleeping in your own bed, it just relaxes you.

"The nerves and pressure is still there, this is a different tournament to all the others. I enjoy pressure and I like feeling nervous.  

"I'm not scared of that feeling.  I felt like I played my best tennis when I've been under pressure and I obviously love playing here."

Murray has changed a lot since his debut here in 2005, when he reached the third round as a teenager but admits the intervening years have not always been easy.

"When I first came onto the Tour I just loved it. I enjoyed everything and felt really free," added Murray, who spent the weekend practicing with coach Amelie Mauresmo at the All England Club.

"Then I started having problems with some of the media and I became very defensive and went into my shell. Perhaps the jump from being 350th in the world to suddenly being a player everyone wanted to talk to happened too fast and I couldn't cope with the transition.

"I feel like I'm a grown-up now, so I can handle myself. I'm certainly enjoying everything again."

Murray faces South Africa's Kevin Anderson and former British number one Tim Henman is confident he'll have the tools to progress with ease to the quarter-finals, edging one step closer to probable semi-final with top seed Novak Djokovic.

"Anderson is a good player but his best weapon is his serve and Andy's return is as good as anyone in the game, so he won't be fearing anything," said Henman, a long-time ambassador for All England Club sponsor HSBC.

"Once they get into baseline rallies, I can only see one winner. In the slams you have to look at it as two different tournaments - the first week and the second week, especially when you are considered a contender. 

"The first week you just need to feel your way into the tournament and get through, ideally conserving as much energy as possible. 

"He's had two whole days off now, the schedule couldn't have worked any better - I don't think he'd change a single thing that has happened so far."

Four-time semi-finalist Henman used to put his supporters through the full range of emotions in fabled rollercoaster matches in SW19.

In contrast, Murray has appeared on virtual cruise control - getting his opponents huffing and puffing while barely appearing to break sweat. 

"It's nice to win in three straights sets because you are saving energy but sometimes you come through a five setter and it's a boost because you know you can handle pressure situations. You can't win Wimbledon in the first week but you can certainly lose it," added Henman.

"He's played fantastically well and there has been different but really encouraging aspects to all his matches.

"He coped brilliantly with the pressure and tradition of being the defending champion and coming out and opening the tournament, that is not an easy thing to do against a talented opponent.

"He just demolished his second round rival and played really well against Bautista Agut, who is having a great year and has established himself in the world's top 20. He served well, struck the ball cleanly and is playing really aggressive tennis. He's going to be very hard to beat on this form."

© Sportsbeat 2014