Andy Murray hobbles to 10th straight Wimbledon quarter-final with Paire win
Andy Murray hobbled through to his 10th straight Wimbledon quarter-final on Monday with a mixture of patience and guile to see off the stubborn challenge of Benoît Paire, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 21 minutes on Centre Court.
And despite the sanguine sentiments of his coach, Ivan Lendl before the match, Murray’s camp will surely be at least mildly concerned about impaired movement going into the next round on Wednesday, where he will face the American Sam Querrey, who wasted four match points in the fourth set before beating Kevin Anderson, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (11), 6-3 in three hours and seven minutes on the fabled No18 Court.
Murray has now beaten French opponents 26 times in a row and the world No46 rarely looked like stemming the flow of despair. He perhaps was bamboozled early on by Murray’s between-point limp which almost magically disappeared when hunting down Paire’s flurry of drop-shots. At other times, though, Murray did not exactly move well. But, as he has done so many times, he found a way to win. Now he needs to find a way to raise his level, because he was not entirely convincing here on day seven.
Murray said courtside, “I thought I played well, maybe a couple of sloppy service games in the first set, But that was by far the best I’ve hit the ball in the tournament so far. Two weeks ago I was resting and a little bit concerned. Having issues a few days before an event is frustrating. But I’m doing well and hope I can keep it up.”
The template was forged early. Murray had the brightest of starts, holding to love with the first of only four aces – and Paire began with a pair of aces and two double faults to hold through deuce three times in seven minutes.
Neither player’s serve had a convincing groove to it, and nerves jangled – in the crowd too – as three breaks in a row left the Frenchman ahead after 20 minutes.
Murray’s movement was sending mixed signals, cart horse one minute, thoroughbred the next. He was struggling for rhythm, electric hunting down Paire’s drop shots but vulnerable moving sideways at the back of the court.
Paire finally spotted the fault line and continued to go for the corners, but cracked under quality pressure to allow Murray back to four-all. After half an hour, the champion had settled into a more pleasing tempo. When he aced for the second time to hold to 15 in the ninth game, Paire was left in an undignified heap on the grass he famously has held in contempt on previous unfruitful visits.
While he has learned to better handle the vagaries of the Wimbledon grass – which he once said, “displeases me greatly” – his mistakes were of his own making.
He had to serve his socks off to stay in the set, holding with an ace, then again to force the tie-break, but could win only a single point as his discipline deserted him.
Once dominance had been established, Murray looked more content with his game, but there was plenty of work to do after swapping breaks with a still ambitious opponent.
Paire took a tumble that left a cut on his knee in the ninth game, dropping serve, but Murray had to save four break points to seal the set after an hour and 40 minutes of imperfect but engrossing tennis.
In the third game of the deciding set, there was a minor kerfuffle over a legitimate Murray challenge that the umpire Mohamed Lahyani acknowledged then, weirdly, ignored, but it was not game-changing and Murray moved quickly on after an apology from one of the best referees in the sport.
A 10th double fault cancelled out an 10th ace and two dumped shots from the baseline handed Murray the chance to serve for the match after two hours and 17 minutes. The last shot was another overcooked backhand by the Frenchman.