x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Fitness not to be sore point for Roddick

An enormous roar rang out from the masses on Court One in recognition of tLleyton Hewitt drawing level with Andy Roddick at two sets all.

LONDON // Shortly after 7pm on yet another balmy Wimbledon evening, an enormous roar rang out from the masses on Court One in recognition of the pugnacious Lleyton Hewitt drawing level with Andy Roddick at two sets all in the last of the men's quarter-finals.

The likelihood is that there would have been smaller but equally enthusiastic celebrations in the Andy Murray camp in the knowledge that the British No 1's two prospective semi-final rivals were going to have to slug it out in a dramatic final set which would have a considerable draining effect on their physical and mental reserves. It is difficult to imagine who Murray and his sizeable entourage were cheering for as the shadows lengthened that night.

The young Scot, a genuine contender now to become the first home winner of this event since 1936, has an impressive 6-2 winning record over Roddick - twice a runner-up here - but is yet to meet the 2002 champion Hewitt. Roddick's big serve - he sent 43 aces past the Australian who has a reputation as one of the best returners in the game - and solid nerve brought to an end that debating over who Murray was better off walking out with on Centre Court this afternoon.

Two years younger than Hewitt, Roddick is likely to be in better shape after the 6-3, 6-7 (10-12), 7-6 (7-1), 4-6, 6-4 battle than the Australian, working his way back to peak condition after a hip operation, would have been. "I'm sure I'll pull up a little bit sore tomorrow, but that's to be expected," said Roddick. "But it shouldn't be too much of a factor. At this point I feel fit and I feel healthy."

Murray, still only 22 but in outstanding physical condition, had his own recovery programme to go through after his epic fourth-round victory over Stanislas Wawrinka. He showed no effects from that gruelling examination when sweeping past Juan Carlos Ferrero in his quarter-final and was on his way to an ice bath and massage a good three hours before Roddick could make his way back to the locker room.

After surviving his massive scare against Wawrinka, Murray looked the real deal against the former French Open champion Ferrero and has lived up to his reputation as being the most likely player to emerge from the top half of the draw to face the five-time champion Federer in Sunday's final. The excitement being generated about Murray's title prospects is transcending all of the previous "Henmania" that engulfed England's Tim Henman as he went so close so often to realising the impossible dream.

Murray is not ignoring the hype but equally he is determined not to get caught up in it as he focuses on Roddick and then, in all probability, Federer, who takes on Germany's Tommy Haas in the other semi-final. "You don't take anything that's being said about you too seriously," said the world No 3. "I don't read much because 90 per cent of the stuff's gonna be pretty much untrue anyway." Murray believes that he will beat Roddick again, but he warned: "I realise that if I don't bring my best game then I'm gonna lose to guys like Roddick. That's been one of the things that I've learned, and it's made a huge difference to me over the last year or so.

"I feel confident because I've won a lot of matches on the grass. But every day when I get up to play the matches, I know that I'm gonna have to perform very well, and that gets the nerves and the adrenaline going and makes me play better." The uncertainty among British fans about who to cheer for during the Roddick-Hewitt battle will return when Federer strolls into his favourite arena to take on Haas, a Wimbledon semi-finalist for the first time in a professional career which was launched in 1996.

Haas has made it to the last four at the Australian Open three times - in 1999, 2002 and 2007 - and lost in every one of them. Federer has a multitude of admirers in London SW19 and many of them would love to witness the Swiss making history by going past the record of 14 grand slams posted by another of Wimbledon's greatest champions - Pete Sampras. But a far greater number would be happy for the Swiss to be delayed on that mission and for the veteran Haas to remove him from the path of the accelerating Murray juggernaut.

@Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae