x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Murray has edge in mind games

Scot is prepared for another tough match against Frenchman who took him to five sets.

Andy Murray overcame Ivan Ljubicic in four sets on Centre Court on Friday. Next up for the Scot in the fourth round is Richard Gasquet. Ben Stansall / AFP
Andy Murray overcame Ivan Ljubicic in four sets on Centre Court on Friday. Next up for the Scot in the fourth round is Richard Gasquet. Ben Stansall / AFP

Andy Murray will take the psychological edge into his fourth-round match at Wimbledon as he draws on memories of one of his greatest triumphs.

The British No 1 seemed set for disappointment at the same stage three years ago when Richard Gasquet served for victory in the third set on Centre Court, but Murray staged a magnificent comeback to defeat the Frenchman 5-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4.

He repeated the feat when the pair were drawn together in the first round of the French Open last year, winning 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1, giving him even more confidence to take into tomorrow's clash.

"It was up there just for the way I came back and I was pretty much out of the match," Murray said of the 2008 match, which produced one of Wimbledon's lasting images when he hit a winner from so wide that he ended up celebrating in the crowd.

"It's good to have in the back of my mind when I go in against him in a match like this. Even if I go behind, I know I can come back against him.

"That will be I think for him a tough thing. It's happened twice in big matches against me. I expect it to be a very difficult match. But the one that I played with him here was one of the most memorable for me. It was a long time ago now, though."

If grand slams were won on talent alone, then Gasquet would surely have a major championship by now.

Instead, he can boast only one semi-final appearance, at Wimbledon in 2007, when he was beaten by eventual champion Roger Federer.

When Murray and Novak Djokovic, now ranked Nos 4 and 2 in the world, were coming through the junior ranks, Gasquet, with his stunning one-handed backhand, was the player generating the most excitement.

A lack of mental toughness has been cited as his biggest problem, though his career was also derailed by a drugs ban in 2009 before he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

There have been signs this year that Gasquet may justify the early acclaim; a victory over Federer in Rome was particularly noteworthy. He has climbed back to 13th in the rankings, only six places short of his highest position.

And it is not as if he has never defeated Murray; he ousted him in Paris in 2007 and in Toronto in 2006. Murray can sympathise with the expectations placed on his former junior rival.

"Knowing how difficult it is, you don't expect anyone to do anything," he said. "Guys like him, he's obviously very, very talented. He's an excellent player.

"On his day, he can play great tennis. But the consistency is something that's been difficult for a lot of players. I've had problems with it the last couple of years at certain tournaments.

"You can't really take anything for granted just because he has really nice strokes and he's very talented. You've got to have more than that to get the whole way deep into grand slams on a regular basis. It's a very tough thing to do."

Gasquet, who did not drop a set in his first three matches, said he looks back on his 2008 Centre Court epic against Murray with fondness.

"It was a good memory really, even if I lost," he said. "I played very well. I remember the crowd were very impressive. We are told all the time, at Wimbledon it's quiet. But it was incredible. A lot people were cheering for him.

"I remember the third and the fourth and the fifth set it was very difficult for me to play. I could have finished it in three sets. But he fought a lot."

Murray needed his fighting spirit just to reach the fourth round as he battled past Ivan Ljubicic in four sets Friday under the Centre Court roof.

The Croatian feels the slow nature of the Centre Court surface does not help the British hope. "His second serve is definitely weak," Ljubicic said. "I stepped on it many times. It's by far the slowest [grass] court in the world so there are chances to step in and really hit the returns. This is what Wimbledon has become."

Ljubicic was relatively impressed by Murray's performance but feels the Scot's chances of becoming the first British man to win the singles title at Wimbledon since 1936 are not good.

"It would be something huge if he managed to win it but we all know he's fourth favourite so something tremendous has to happen for him to get through," Ljubicic said. "He wants to win it, you can see it."