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Jekyll and Hyde Andy Murray serves up epic Wimbledon display against Fernando Verdasco

By Mike Gilson

This was the best of Andy Murray and the worst of Andy Murray. In the end the ability he has to plumb the depths and then soar to the heights made for one of the most remarkable, thrilling, comebacks seen in recent times at Wimbledon and gave us drama that was so tangible you could slice a piece from the humid air hung over SW19 on a never to be forgotten afternoon.

In fact perhaps it is not Dickens but an author closer to Murray's home who sums up this infuriating yet often brilliant 26-year-old tennis player.

For Jekyll and Hyde stalked this packed arena in a manner Robert Louis Stevenson would have applauded.

That Jekyll overcame Hyde was a matter of small margins and was never absolutely sure until the last ball was called out and the Centre Court crowd were in raptures at his 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 win.

Murray has now reached the semi-finals for the fifth year in a row, where he will meet 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz tomorrow.

But make no mistake – for the first two sets the Number 2 seed, his Hyde side to the fore, played so badly it was as if a Sunday afternoon club player had wandered onto court by mistake.

Murray's service game was awful, his lame second serve something his opponent, the rejuvenated Fernando Verdasco, picked off with stylish relish.

Easy drop shots limped into the net, groundstrokes were either too long or not long enough and the crowd, as so often can happen here, amplified Murray's tension right back at him.

The air was thick with mumblings and grumblings, not all of them Murray's.

In the Royal Box, Sir Alex Ferguson, a big fan of his fellow countryman, could do nothing to help.

If he could have done he would surely at this stage either have sent on a sub or given his man the famous hairdryer at one of the intervals.

As bad as Murray was for the first hour and a half he found a man determined to remind us, here on the biggest tennis stage of all, that he was no support act.

The unseeded left-handed Verdasco was all class, matching some rapier cross court forehands with a stunning slicing serve that will now have to be re-evaluated as one of the most potent weapons men's tennis has. Whatever the result the Spaniard's mid career crisis appears over.

He is back from the wilderness. His ability to stay in the point unnerved Murray so completely that the Scot was lucky to get 4 in a 6-4 first set to the Spaniard.

Worse was to follow in the second set as Murray continued to fall back on his counterpunching style allowing Verdasco to dictate the play and when you are finding the lines as well as the player ranked 54 in the world was there was to be no answer.

Something had to give and as the crowd began to realise the severity of the crisis Murray was in, they roared him out for the third set.

There he found an opponent who could not match the sublime levels he had reached previously allowing Murray's tenacity to wear him down.

The Scot also began to find his service and rattled through the set 6-1. But if we thought we could relax we were mistaken with Verdasco coming right back at the Number 2 seed. It was a slog fest now but the turning point of the game was near.

At 3-3 on Verdasco's serve, the Spaniard moving his opponent all over the court, Murray stayed in the point in a way that has become his trademark until with a last-ditch effort he produced a sublime cross court pass to stun the man on the other side of the net.

Fist pumping, teeth clenching, like a prize-fighter he brought the crowd to its feet for the first time.

They were to be up on them regularly from now on. The best of Murray, Dr Jekyll, was back with some fantastic running passes illuminating his game now and he took the fourth 6-4.

But still Verdasco would not stay down. Somehow he found the strength to come again, serving brilliantly. It was now about guts.

Up in the box Sir Alex, who knows a thing or two about grabbing last gasp victory from the jaw of defeat, could sense something.

At one point Murray even seemed to look up to the former Manchester United boss for inspiration as Verdasco would not yield. Murray definitely needed Fergie time. It was down to who would make the most errors now. At 3-4 down Verdasco sensed his chance. Murray went love 30 down after a member of the crowd distracted him with a smartphone camera flash.

He shot back black looks to the hapless amateur snapper. Could this be the moment he threw it away?

For the old Murray maybe, now he dug deep pulling the game back and winning it with an ace. It was nerves of steel and sporting resilience of the highest quality and the crowd loved him for it.

Better was to follow at 5-5 as Murray summoned every ounce of resource left to outplay Verdasco in an energy sapping rally that once again had the crowd giving as primeval a roar as a middle England Wimbledon crowd can muster.

Murray served out to love to win a match of spine-tingling excitement and air-sucking drama. Even mum Judy was in tears.

Later Murray admitted he had started too slowly and his propensity to counter punch and recover shots rather than actually make points more often is going to cost him against a player like Novak Djokovic.

But as the buzzing, almost hysterically excited, crowd walked out into the summer evening thoughts were only of the sporting marvel they had just witnessed.

Belfast Telegraph

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