Looking down onto Center Court, it’s easy to see the surface as an unearthly plane and the players gliding across it as otherworldly beings. But honestly, they’re only human, and this is (look over your shoulder and whisper to a trusted friend) only grass.
In that sense, Sir Andy Murray is just a man. His mistakes prove it, even if his actions disprove it. Its jingling metal hip is an artificial accessory, not an astral invention. His brain ponders the ideal timing of a forehand and what to expect for dinner, not the confusing basics of human existence and their place in the cosmos. Like us, Murray is human, no matter how many wonders he conjures up on the pitch. That’s the reality.
But on the fourth night of Wimbledon, reality flickered in front of the Center Court audience and morphed into something else entirely. This addictive augmented reality read, “Andy Murray 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 Stefanos Tsitsipas.”
Nine years and 364 days after his first glorious moment on that very pitch, when he finally lifted the Wimbledon trophy to overcome years of personal injury and decades of national disappointment, Murray, 36, stepped onto the striped turf for the second time . Round clash with world No. 5. In many ways, that title win in 2013 – the first of two for Murray at the turf slam – dashed all future hopes and expectations. If the Scot falls short at Wimbledon at this point it will be a shame but no tragedy. Fans will always have 2013, they will always have 2016.
They may still have 2023.
A Murray match under the roof and lights on Center Court is a special part of the historic Wimbledon atmosphere. Here a thread has been extended, even if the result is unwritten.
The early signs were worrying for Murray. First, Tsitsipas hit a forehand pass shot past the bouncing Scot. Then the 24-year-old slammed an irretrievable serve before leading a backhand winner across the line. As Murray struggled to hold serve in the next game, he played like an athlete who’d gone through a fierce five-set duel the night before – only it wasn’t Murray, it was the man on the other side of the net. And in five games, the man on the other side of the net had scored four aces and eight winners. As the set progressed, Murray kept in touch, although Tsitsipas’ forehand and serve secured easy points.
It was a little harder for Murray to win the points. It’s the kind of lead that can widen over the course of a game, but the two-time champion kept his columns tight. Despite an unfortunate slip, Murray managed to fight back 4-5, clamoring for support from the accommodating crowd while holding serve to make it 5-5. A dominant service game followed for Tsitsipas before Murray fought for himself and set up a nerve-wracking tie-break. For Tsitsipas, that brutal serve and Spitfire forehand proved crucial. They embodied much of the Greek’s good work in the second frame as well, although his backhand gave him away occasionally.
And after every ace, drop shot, and false forehand, there was a resigned stomp from Murray — not resignation to defeat, but acceptance that the chases he once engaged in are a thing of the past. Murray took off his cap and threw it up in frustration, as if those around him were conspiring against him. Still, he fought, as is his nature, taking his shots as far as his hips would allow and covering as much ground as his feet could absorb. There were stronger appeals to the crowd and stronger appeals to himself.
It all led to another tiebreak that Murray mastered with amazing ease. As Murray sealed the set, he punctuated the feat with a battle cry and an insistent series of punches. The fans are fed up. They always have. They always will. In contrast, they taunted Tsitsipas when the fifth seed was late for the third set, not forgetting his seven-minute toilet break at the players’ chilly US Open meeting two years ago. Was Tsitsipas worried? He immediately skipped a serve break to fall in love. Prompt further thunderous applause.
In the third set, Murray’s serve was crushing and the Scot made shots he had no right to. He won games he had no right to win. It wasn’t long before he’d won a set he had no right to win.
In the seconds leading up to that, however, something terrified happened. When Tsitsipas found the corner with a ground hit, Murray pulled away on the spot. His agony was audible and he fell to the floor clutching his groin. Tension was building on Center Court but the Briton eased it by finally getting up and completing the task.
However, not the last task. The referee announced that the game would be suspended 20 minutes before the curfew began until Friday. There should be no repeat of 2012 when Murray was allowed two minutes out of curfew to prevail against Marcos Baghdatis. Maybe there’s a world where Murray took the fifth set lead on Thursday and was close to winning by the end of the game. Maybe there’s a world where his groin hurt him to the point of disaster.
In the real world, Murray will rest and then continue this game. It’s a fight he has no right to win, but he’s close to winning nonetheless.
Elsewhere at Wimbledon on day four
British wildcard Liam Broady claimed the biggest win of his career and the biggest shock of Wimbledon 2023 when he defeated fourth-seeded Norway’s Casper Ruud in front of an insane team 6-4 3-6 4-6 6 :3, 6-0 defeated the crowd at Center Court on Thursday. Broady belied his 142nd place finish against a player who had reached three of the last five Grand Slam finals but had struggled in his three previous Wimbledon appearances.
After four hard-fought if unpredictable sets, Ruud, who said he’d spent the three weeks since reaching the French Open final staying far away from tennis, seemed mentally packed again when Broady broke the deciding set and victory secured memorable victory. “It’s quite a terrifying and exciting experience to be on Center Court at Wimbledon. It’s been my dream since I was five years old,” Broady said in an on-pitch interview.
Stan Wawrinka estimates his chances of winning Wimbledon at ‘zero’ but is able to complete a remarkable set by knocking out his old rival Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon. Wawrinka, 38, defeated No. 29 seed Tomas Etcheverry 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the last 32 at the All England Club for the first time since 2015, where he finished 23rd -year-olds will meet Grand Slam winners. “There’s no chance for me to win Wimbledon, I think,” he said. “I’m happy to have won again today. I’m playing better from game to game and it’s an honor to play against Novak here. Hopefully I can create a competitive game but looking at recent results I don’t really stand a chance.”
Former Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini defeated fellow Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. The 2021 runner-up now meets 15th-seeded Alex de Minaur after the Australian’s four-set win over Kimmer Coppejans. Alexander Zverev, the No. 19-seeded player who finally got a chance to play his first-round match on day four of the tournament, advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 win over Dutchman Gijs a browser.
Katie Boulter fought her way into the third round of Wimbledon for the second straight season and set up a possible meeting with reigning champion Elena Rybakina. The only Brit left in the singles draw recovered from a wobble in the second set to defeat Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova 6-0 3-6 6-3 in 12th place. Observed by her Aussie friend Alex de Minaur, who won his belated first set. In Thursday’s preliminary round match, Boulter set her best performance in SW19. After winning an epic 24-shot rally late on, the 26-year-old converted a third match point with her 36th winner.
Ukraine wildcard Elina Svitolina defeated 28th seed Belgium Elise Mertens to advance to the third round on day four at Wimbledon. But the runner-up of the French Open, Karolina Muchova, was surprisingly eliminated in the first round by Jule Niemeier. The number 16 seeded player suffered a leg injury in the deciding set and lost 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. Two-time Major champion Victoria Azarenka had no trouble against Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska, advancing in a 6-3, 6-0 win. And US Open winner Bianca Andreescu survived her first round match against Anna Bondar 6: 3, 3: 6, 6: 2.