3 July 2008

They came to cheer him. Murray Mount is so full that latecomers have to step over the sitting like irritants over open-air theatre seats. Even when the match starts, people are walking on the thoroughfare between the mount and the giant screen. Don’t they know THE MATCH is going on?

The oddity continues when the sound effects from the Centre Court screen are suddenly overwhelmed by cheering from Court No 1 right over the wall. To start with it’s hard to suspend the disbelief. The spectacle is not helped by half of Centre Court being in shadow and so not easily visible on the screen. Will the setting of the sun see the rising of our star? Three bodies along, a lovely raven-haired girl is draped in a Spanish flag. She’s not a Murray fan.

In the fifth game, Murray miscues to hit the umpire in his chair. But we only get the joke in the replay. It’s quite uncomfortable sitting on the grass – some people are leaving already. Murray has two break points against him in the sixth and we don’t get the tension. Quite a cheer when Murray finally holds, but there is not the sense of “crisis survived” that you get in the stadium. The crowd need lifting. Give him time.

Eighth game, two more break points against Murray. There is a good cheer when he saves the first, a groan when he misses a smash to allow Nadal to go 5-3. Nadal races to 40-0 and, strangely, a huge cheer goes up. But it is for Marat Safin over the wall. Two minutes later, Nadal has won the first set and the girl in the Spanish flag is thrilled. The rest of us are not. Quite a few more are leaving.

News comes through that 14-year-old Laura Robson has won through to the quarter-finals of Junior Wimbledon. By 2012 she should be in our Olympic team. Will the team be led by a Wimbledon champion? Not unless Murray ups a gear or Nadal loses a leg. But heck, Murray was two sets and 4-5 down on Monday – give the man time. Sore bums find that the hardest thing, however.

Into the third game of the second set, and there are three break points against Murray. He produces a double fault and there is a groan in the court, but it’s hardly noticed on the Mount. By the time they pay attention, the match might be over. We know Murray is a slow starter but this is getting worse. Nadal has another break point to go 4-1, although this one is saved.

Murray looks like a kid again. The screen shows Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck in the crowd, but this isn’t very funny. Nadal serves out to love to lead 4-2 and breaks to love to go 5-2 up. The girl in the flag is loving it. My bum isn’t.

Murray loyalists point out that Richard Gasquet went two sets up, but despite Nadal’s first double fault he is two sets up after only 68 minutes. Murray holds serve to lead 2-1 in the third and two policemen lead a drunk away. The end soon comes. Miracles happen – but not often against the force that is Rafa Nadal.

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