x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Murray learns to love life with a roof

The No 3 seed hopes that experience of the new undercover conditions may give him an edge over his rivals.

Andy Murray celebrates clinching victory over Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth-round on Monday evening.
Andy Murray celebrates clinching victory over Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth-round on Monday evening.

LONDON // It would have been the ultimate irony if Wimbledon's long overdue Centre Court roof had put the skids under the home nation's strongest contender to win the men's singles since Fred Perry did so for the third time back in 1936. Andy Murray seemed to be the only person under the impressive £80million (Dh487m) construction who did not enjoy the totally different feeling of a grass court match being played indoors from start to finish for the first time.

Stanislas Wawrinka, Murray's inspired opponent in an epic fourth round battle on Monday night, certainly adapted to the vastly contrasting conditions to previous days and the Swiss No 2 looked like doing his compatriot Roger Federer the biggest of favours in removing the greatest threat to his capturing of a sixth title here. Murray, who sank to his knees in a mixture of relief and exhaustion after closing out his dramatic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory, admitted to fearing the worst after struggling to cope with the greater humidity and heavier balls brought about by the closure of the roof on what was a bright and sunny evening.

The tough decision to keep the roof closed after it had been brought into action for the first time to allow completion of a women's match between Dinara Safina and Amelie Mauresmo, was taken to avoid a late night stoppage. And that big call by referee Andrew Jarrett eventually worked in favour of the British No 1 who was able to take the whole of yesterday off in preparation for today's quarter-final against the wild card former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Had the roof been opened, Murray, who was surprised and unhappy that the facility was used on a hot, dry evening, would have been hauled off court before the end of his fourth set against Wawrinka and would have had to resume business late yesterday afternoon. Instead, he was able to play on in perfect artificial light until 10.39pm in front of a still-packed gallery of spectators who, for the admission price of £72 were treated to the longest day in the history of the Championships.

The ultra-fit Murray is confident that a day of enormous food intake -- he was planning to eat four large meals - an ice bath, plenty of physiotherapy and considerable relaxation will bring him back to full sharpness He also expects to be better for the experience, not only having come through a demanding five-setter which aspiring champions always seek along their paths to glory but also, through being the only one of the eight survivors who have experience in playing under the roof.

"When you haven't practised or ever played a match under a roof on grass, you don't know what to expect," he said. "So now going in the next match, I'll know what to expect if the roof comes on. It just it took me a little while to get used to it the first time because it's very different and you don't know how hard to swing at the ball." There is a roof over the Centre Court in Halle, Germany, and Federer has played under it on occasions in winning five titles there but it does not turn the stadium into an indoor arena as it does here.

Nevertheless, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Haas, who meet in the quarter-finals today, and Ferrero will all be able to call upon experience of playing there if the Wimbledon roof rolls into action. Federer has a banana skin of a quarter-final today against the serve-dominated game of Croatia's Ivo Karlovic. The 6ft 10in Karlovic will not mind their match being decided by tie-breaks but Federer, who played two terrific breakers on the way to defeating Robin Soderling on Monday, has a tremendous record in that sudden death type of warfare.

Playing for the right to meet either Murray or Ferrero are Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion who is enjoying a return to form, and Andy Roddick, the American No 6 seed who has looked in impressive form so far. wjohnson@thenational.ae