By Ros Satar
- Andy Murray defeated soon to retire Mardy Fish in straight sets 6-4 7-6(1)
- Faces Grigor Dimitrov in the third round, leads 5-2 in their head to head
If anything Murray made the more tentative start, with a double-fault to kick off his first service game, before being broken to love before the first change of ends. It required a swift response, duly given as Murray repaid the favour.
As Murray became more dialed in, he was the one putting pressure on Fish’s serve, rewarded with another break to serve out the first set. Fish was not done yet through, with some breathtaking work at the net (oh the irony) to put things back on serve once more.
Although the conditions had cooled initially after the teeming rain of earlier – it still looked quite humid, as Fish hooked Murray (sorry) into some lengthy rallies, late into the night, but Murray did enough to net himself the first set. (OK we’ll stop now).
After squandering an early opportunity to try and get the early advantage over Fish, the American pushed back solidly and although Murray had the lion’s share of the break points in the second set, it took Fish just one to nudge ahead, obviously feeling a little more at home in the damper conditions.
Never one to shy away from making it hard for himself, Murray had to work himself back to wrestle the advantage away, coming back on serve with an immediate break back.
But another lax game aided and abetted by some very solid shot-making from Fish gave him more than a fighting chance to serve for the second set. Perhaps the lack of match tightness began to show, with Murray breaking back once more to force a tie-break.
A quick mini-break advantage to the Brit gave him some breathing room on his own serve, swiftly building to a commanding lead, to end Fish’s farewell in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Murray has not been a stranger to late (or early-morning) finishes this year, coming from a rain disrupted Munich to start in Madrid a little after 1am, with a late finish as well last week in Montreal.
“Obviously after Munich, you know, played the first match, I don’t know, we walked on court after 1:00. And then today, yeah, obviously still a bit fatigued there from Sunday.
“So to finish late, that’s why it’s tricky. Obviously happens like first tournament or whatever you feel a bit better, but it’s obviously tricky when you’re already a bit tired.”
Add to that of course the emotional resonance of Fish’s last match here in front of home supporters, and it was a tricky opener for the World No. 2 with the world’s best players still in the field.
“It’s tricky because I know him well. He’s a good guy. We get on well. Obviously I’m desperate to try and win the match. He’s still playing well. I was lucky because he hasn’t played many matches he made mistakes at the end of the sets, which is normal because he hasn’t played loads.
“But he made it very tricky for me and conditions were very tough. It was extremely humid and so different to last week.”
Next up for Murray is Grigor Dimitrov – whom he leads 5-2 in their head to head. The British No. 1 admitted that the loss to the Bulgarian as he attempted to defend his Wimbledon title. It was an uncharacteristic loss, that still rankles with the Brit.
“We’ve played some good matches. The match at Wimbledon for me was not the best match. I was very disappointed with that match.
“The other matches that we played, from my side they’ve been pretty high level. Should be a good atmosphere on Court 3 tomorrow. I would imagine there would be a lot of people there watching. He’s obviously a fun guy to watch, too.”
Dimitrov may be feeling a little at a loose end though, having divested himself of the services of former coach Roger Rasheed after a string of disappointing results following a strong year in 2014. With Murray playing very strongly since his wedding earlier this year, maybe the stability will be the edge he needs to set up an encounter between either Marin Cilic or Richard Gasquet in the quarter-final.
Murray and Dimitrov are scheduled on Court No. 3, not before 7pm (Midnight BST, Friday 21 August).