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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Preview: Murray v Ferrero

Photo Titled Murray roarsMurray roars

Before this tournament began, there was much staring into teacups and reading of leaves, much reading of runes and consulting of oracles – could this be the year? Are the stars aligned in such a way that Britain could finally produce its first home-grown winner in 73 years. Can Andy Murray win Wimbledon?

To be fair, it was exactly the same in the days of Henmania (remember that?). And every year it made not one jot of difference – Tiger Tim never made the final and we all sighed and waited for next year. There must have been a bad moon rising.

But there is one pointer, one coincidence, one little fact that seems to have been overlooked by the over-excited locals: the last wild card entrant to reach the quarter-finals was one Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia in 2001. Not only that, but he went on to crush the nation’s hopes by beating Henman in the semis before claiming the title for his own.

This year Juan Carlos Ferrero is the wild card entry in the quarter-finals and this year the same Ferrero will play Murray for a place in the semi-finals.

The two have met only once before. Just under three weeks ago, they faced each other in the semi-finals of the Queen’s Club tournament and Murray won with reasonable ease 6-2, 6-4. But one match is not enough to judge how they will both shape up in a Grand Slam, especially at this stage in the competition where the stakes are rising round by round and the pressure is mounting by the hour.

Murray was certainly looking relaxed as he recovered from his late night epic on Monday with Stan Wawrinka. After a good night’s sleep – he didn’t waken until 10am – he went through the usual routines of a little practice, an ice bath and a trip to the physio to have any aches and pains seen to and then it was home to get as much rest as possible.

But however well he feels he is recovering and however much support he will get from the Centre Court crowd, Murray is not taking anything for granted. Ferrero may be 29, he may be ranked 70 in the world and he may have spent the past year struggling with a string of injuries, but he is still not to be taken lightly.

“He’s a former world number one, Grand Slam champion, got to the quarters here in the past,” Murray warned. “He’s in the quarters again this year and he’s beaten some tough players to get there. He was in the semis at Queen’s and I managed to beat him there but I’m going to have to play very well to beat him.”

'Murray is at home and he wants to win and everybody wants him to win'

Ferrero, for his part, is simply happy to be here. After a miserable 2008 when it seemed that every bit of him ached, complained and seized up, he is relishing a decent run at last. The fact that it has come on grass, historically not his best surface, just adds to the enjoyment.

He is feeling a little bit more comfortable on the green stuff than he was at Queen’s and the 15 sets it has taken him to get to the last eight have honed his game to deal with the vagaries of grass. All in all, Ferrero is as ready as he can be – bring on Braveheart.

“I think right now I'm with a little bit more rhythm than that week,” he said. "And, of course, after the match I play against him, I learn something. That is, I have to do my job, be aggressive all the time, because he likes to play in one level, and then he change the rhythm very fast.

“So I think is very difficult to play against him because of this. So I will try to be focused on my return, because his serve has been very, very big. So if I want to win, of course it’s going to be very difficult. He's at home and he wants to win and everybody wants him to win, so it's going to be tough, as every match is.”

So as the crowd prepares itself for another round of oohing, ahhing and cheering, Ferrero is keeping his head down. He knows that history has been known to repeat itself and that, for an old bloke with a long history of injury, Ivanisevic made the most of his wild card.

“I would like to repeat what he did,” Ferrero said. “But, of course, it's a little bit difficult yet to say. I'm pretty happy about the wild card and happy about the game that I'm playing.”

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