World No. 4 Andy Murray ignored the fuss over his Centre Court snub to sweep into the Wimbledon quarter-finals with a ruthless 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Croatia’s Marin Cilic yesterday.
With rain disrupting the second week, Wimbledon officials provoked howls of criticism after scheduling home favorite Murray on Court One rather than the covered Centre Court.
That meant Murray, bidding to end Britain’s 76-year wait for a men’s singles champion at Wimbledon, was forced to endure several rain interruptions on Monday, while his title rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer coasted through under the Centre Court roof.
Murray had to wait until yesterday afternoon before he was finally able to finish off Cilic in between more showers and the 25-year-old is scheduled to be back in action against Spain’s David Ferrer in the quarter-finals today.
“I honestly don’t care which court I play on. It makes no difference, but obviously every player would rather be on Centre Court because you know you are going to get your match in, regardless of the weather,” Murray said. “I haven’t always dealt with rain delays that well in the past, so it’s good experience for me.”
Rafael Nadal’s shock exit last week has given Murray, beaten in the Wimbledon semi-finals for the past three years, a golden opportunity to become the first British men’s finalist at the All England Lawn Tennis Club since Bunny Austin in 1938.
It helped Murray’s cause that Cilic had to survive the second-longest match in the tournament’s history to get past Sam Querrey in the previous round.
That 5 hour, 31 minute epic appeared to have left the 16th seed a spent force and when play was suspended due to rain on Monday afternoon, Murray had taken a firm grip with a 7-5, 3-1 lead.
Despite the scheduling storm, Wimbledon chiefs stuck to their guns and Murray was back on Court One yesterday for an earlier than usual midday start under ominous gray skies.
Murray led 40-0 on his serve from the previous evening and he quickly finished off the game as drizzle began to fall again.
Cilic then held serve before the rain sent the players scurrying from the court for a delay of more than an hour, but Murray emerged to take the second set with another break.
Even when Murray faced four break points in the first game of the third set, he produced a perfectly placed ace on each occasion to get out of trouble.
Murray landed the knockout blow in the fourth game when he unleashed a superb passing shot down the line to break for a 3-1 lead that sealed his place in the quarter-finals.
Ferrer reached the quarter-finals by beating No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 on Centre Court.
Ferrer saved all four break points he faced while eliminating the 2009 US Open champion.
Philipp Kohlschreiber made it into the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time, ending US qualifier Brian Baker’s fairytale run in a straight sets win, while Florian Mayer ousted Richard Gasquet of France 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
Kohlschreiber, the German 27th seed, won 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 in 1 hour, 55 minutes on Court 12.
Baker lost six years of his career after five different operations on a hernia, then his left and right hips and finally his right elbow.
He eventually felt ready to return in July last year and the 27-year-old has enjoyed a remarkably successful time back on the circuit.
Baker started the year ranked No. 458, but the world No. 126 will break into the top 100 after his Wimbledon run, with the American likely to enter at about No. 77.
Kohlschreiber goes fourth on the list of the most Grand Slams played before reaching the last eight, having got there on his 33rd attempt.
Fabrice Santoro holds the unenviable record at 54, followed by Australian doubles duo Mark Woodforde on 38 and Todd Woodbridge on 34.
The German made it into the last eight thanks to 23 aces and superb net play.
On Monday afternoon, all at once, there was a frenzy of activity at a wet and windy All England Lawn Tennis Club.
Top seed and 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, a big hitter in her own right, was overpowered in a 6-4, 6-3 loss to No. 15 Sabine Lisicki. while over on Centre Court, there was the not-so-insignificant matter of 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer’s medical timeout to get treatment for his aching back.
The start of the second week has been dubbed “Manic Monday,” because it is the only major tournament that schedules all 16 fourth-round singles matches on one day.
Sure lived up to that moniker this year, even if rain prevented five of the eight men’s matches from finishing.
The most newsworthy result was the abrupt end of Sharapova’s bid to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2002 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.
Less than a month after completing a career Grand Slam in Paris to return to world No. 1, Sharapova bowed out against someone she had beaten the three other times they met. She will be replaced atop the rankings next week.
Federer, seeking a seventh trophy at the grass-court Grand Slam, beat Xavier Malisse 7-6 (7/1), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 to reach a 33rd consecutive major quarter-final, adding to his record.
After the seventh game, Federer got help from a trainer for his back. When he returned, his play did not appear to suffer all that much, other than slower-than-usual serves. On the other hand, Federer capped the match with a 196kph ace.
The Swiss next faces No. 26 Mikhail Youzhny, a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 winner over Denis Istomin.
Federer is 13-0 against Youzhny, who chose to look on the bright side, saying: “I have one more chance.”
The only other man assured a spot in the quarter-finals was world No. 1 Djokovic.
The defending champion improved to 12-1 against Viktor Troicki, his doubles partner for Serbia at the upcoming London Olympics, by winning 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 under the Centre Court roof.
“Weather is always an obstacle here,” Djokovic said.
Two of the men’s matches never started and three were suspended.
In the men’s doubles, Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun and his partner, Germany’s Alexander Waske, bowed out of the tournament after Austria’s Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner of Germany won their match 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2.
In the women’s singles, World No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, has lost only 14 games so far. The most interesting aspect of her 6-1, 6-0 win over 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic were the pigeon feathers that slowly floated down to the grass after a bird collided with the roof.
“Sometimes it can be annoying when somebody is chewing chips right when you’re serving. Doesn’t really matter; you just have to stay focused on your game. Whatever is going on around, is going on around. It’s out of your hands,” Azarenka said. “But the feathers? It was fun.”
Lisicki certainly had a grand time against Sharapova, smiling all the while.
She used flat, powerful ground-strokes to neutralize Sharapova from the baseline. She also served bigger than Sharapova, reaching 190kph and collecting six aces. A second-serve winner at 188kph earned Lisicki’s third match point, which she converted with a second-serve ace at 174kph, then dropped to her knees and shook her fists, while Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki cheered from her guest box.
“That’s my game, to serve well and be aggressive. That’s what I did. I think it worked well,” Lisicki said.
Lisicki missed seven months in 2010 because of a left-ankle injury — she has described what she went through as having “to learn how to walk again” — and dropped out of the top 200. After twisting that ankle in April, Lisicki withdrew from two tournaments and then lost her opening matches at four consecutive events, including the French Open, but she has clearly taken a liking to the All England Lawn Tennis Club, having reached the semis last year, when she lost to Sharapova.
Despite their history, Sharapova referred to Lisicki as “the girl I played today,” rather than by name.
Additional reporting by staff writer