His two-set deficit in the Wimbledon quarter-finals already erased, Andy Murray evened the fifth at 4-4, looked into the Centre Court stands and shook his fist.
“Come on,” he bellowed. “Come on, now.”
Already riled up by the Scot’s comeback from a two-set deficit, the 15,000 or so spectators stood and roared even louder.
It has been 77 years since a British man won the country’s Grand Slam tennis tournament, and Murray is giving the locals reason to believe that wait will end on Sunday.
Buoyed by a boisterous partisan crowd, the second-seeded Murray got past 54th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 on Wednesday to complete his seventh career comeback after trailing by two sets.
“Great atmosphere at the end of the match ... I love it when it’s like that. It was extremely noisy,” said Murray, who lost last year’s Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. “They were right into it, pretty much every single point.”
Into the semi-finals at the All England Club for the fifth consecutive year, Murray will face No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland today. The other semi-final is No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia against No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
“For sure, [the] crowd will not really help me, but we’ll see how it’s going to be,” said Janowicz, the first Polish man to get to the final four at a major tournament. “This is my first semi-final ever, so I don’t know what to expect.”
The rest of the guys left are more accustomed to being at this stage. Especially Djokovic, who extended his streak to 13 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals — second in history only to Roger Federer’s 23 — by beating No. 7 Tomas Berdych 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-3.
Djokovic entered Wednesday with a 13-2 lead in their head-to-head series, but one loss came at Wimbledon in 2010, when Berdych was the runner-up, and the other came in their most recent meeting, at Rome in May. Wednesday’s first set was tight as can be, and Berdych led 5-4 in the tiebreaker, before faltering. He sent a return long, badly missed what should have been a routine backhand, then pushed a forehand wide for another error.
That gave Djokovic the opening set, but Berdych responded strongly, breaking twice to lead 3-0 in the second. Not surprisingly, Djokovic awoke again, taking seven of the next eight games.
“I don’t know how I managed to turn the second set around,” said six-time major champion Djokovic, who won Wimbledon in 2011. “I managed to step in and just tried to be a little bit more aggressive. That brought me a victory.”
He has won all 15 sets he has played the past one and a half weeks, as has Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, after his 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) win against David Ferrer.
At the start, though, things looked grim for Del Potro. On the fifth point against Ferrer, the 198cm Argentine’s left foot slid out from under him as he sprinted to reach a ball. Del Potro’s heavily wrapped left knee, which he hyperextended on a face-first tumble in the third round, slackened, then bent backward.
“Really painful,” Del Potro said. “I was scared.”
He fell to the turf and rolled over twice, then stayed down until a trainer came out to check on him and dispense anti-inflammatory medicine.
“Magic pills,” Del Potro called them.
After a 10-minute break, he resumed playing — and playing quite well.
He has until today to get ready for his third career major semi-final, and first at Wimbledon. Del Potro is 3-8 against Djokovic, but won their most recent meeting (at Indian Wells in March) and their only previous encounter at the All England Club (in the bronze-medal match at last year’s Olympics).
Murray was far from his best for the first hour-plus against Verdasco, whose powerful serves and go-for-the-lines big cuts made things difficult.
“It was a tough situation,” Murray said afterward.
One he might not have been able to get through in the past, he acknowledged.
However, Murray has matured as a tennis player. Twelve months ago, he wept after losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, dropping to 0-4 in Grand Slam title matches.
Four weeks later, also at the All England Club, Murray defeated Federer for an Olympic gold medal. Then Murray finally earned a major championship, beating Djokovic in five sets at the US Open.
Murray then reached a third consecutive Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, but lost to Djokovic there.
All of that recent success helped Murray against Verdasco.
In the second round of the girls’ doubles yesterday, Anett Kontaveit of Estonia and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia knocked out Taiwan’s Hsu Ching-wen and Kamonwan Buayam of Thailand 6-2, 6-3.
Additional reporting by staff writer