Wimbledon 2013: Murray shines against classy Robredo

Wimbledon 2013: Andy Murray books his place in the last 16 at SW19 with a straight-sets win over Tommy Robredo

andy murray
Andy Murray brreezed through on Centre Court on Friday Photo: Marianne Bevis

It was only a month ago that Tommy Robredo, the classy 31-year-old from Spain, was not even in contention for a seeding at Wimbledon.

Then, he was ranked 34, in April 72, in February 102, and 13 months ago 470. It was down, of course, to injury. The Spaniard, a former world No5 back in 2006, but played little in 2011 and missed five months of the 2012 season due to leg surgery.

But his ranking has climbed ever since and made his surge into the Wimbledon seedings with quarter-final finish at Roland Garros, his first Grand Slam quarter since Roland Garros in 2009.

During the event, he became only the second man in history to come back from 0-2 down in three consecutive Grand Slam matches, so Andy Murray, his third-round opponent, was right to point out just how fit the Spaniard was: “He’s a tough player. He’s very, very experienced. He’s extremely fit…He fights right until the last point. He’s been in the top 20 in the world for a number of years. He knows how to win tennis matches. So it’s a tough match for me.”

But the contrast, particularly on grass, were stark. Where Murray had failed to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon only once—on his debut as a wild card in 2005—Robredo had never reached the last 16 here. Indeed the Spaniard had reached the third round only twice in 12 previous visits.

And here was Murray, on a 13-match grass streak that began with Olympic gold and extended through to the title at Queen’s this year. And here was a man with a huge groundswell of support since his first Wimbledon final last year, that gold medal and then the US Open title.

Robredo, though, believed he was in the form of his life and had nothing to lose—and a player with nothing to lose is a dangerous prospect:
“The motivation has always been strong, but it is important to enjoy my comeback journey…I didn’t feel good being 400 in the world, but I am happier now.”

Immediately, though, the first frenetic three games made it clear who was the heavyweight. Murray’s ground stokes fizzed through the court and the speed of the rallies was breathtaking. Robredo held onto his opening serve but was then broken twice in a row, despite great resilience and scampering around the baseline.

Down 1-4, Robredo was rewarded for his nimble footwork and increasingly impressive forehand with three break points in the very next game, and as Murray tried to defuse the pace and rhythm, he sliced a drop-shot into the net.

But having conceded a break back, Murray quickly made amends with a reactive backhand on the run down the line to convert a break point in the seventh game. There was little Robredo could do, despite attacking at every opportunity, and he certainly couldn’t break again: Murray lead, 6-2.

In fact much credit was due Robredo for living with Murray to the extent he did. He used his glorious backhand slice to great effect—but that is also a shot which Murray has perfected over his career: The Briton simply had all the answers.

He broke in the first game of the second set with a top-spin cross-court backhand past a Robredo bravely coming the net, and then he began to showcase his full range of shots: a forehand slice drop, a forehand topped down the line, and a backhand winner off his haunches from behind the baseline.

Murray worked another break point in a long and intense fifth game, but Robredo drilled his forehand from left to right, finally hitting one almost through Murray onto the baseline for a winner.

It is testament to the Spaniard’s technique that he is able to generate such speed from his right arm, but his slighter and older body struggled to live with the break-neck speed of the rallies and the match—neither wasted a moment between points or games.

The Spaniard cranked up his serve to deliver the fastest thus far, at 127mph, and worked a chance to break in the 11th game. Even this partisan crowd was both generous and appreciative of his effort and the quality of his tennis. However, it was Murray who closed out the set, 6-4.

Murray had made a few more winners and slightly fewer errors, but the attacking intent of both was clear: Each had made 20 net approaches, each had made a dozen points from the tactic.

The third set was, if anything, the best of the three: Robredo lifted his game, Murray responded. First Robredo served a love game, then Murray did the same. It was fast, entertaining and elegant in a way that only grass can be—great footwork, sliced backhand exchanges, net work and overheads—leavened with the occasional longer rally.

It looked for all the world as though this would need a tie-break as Robredo held with an ace to go 5-4 and Murray did the same to level. But a near-fluke of a volley from Murray landed on the corner of side and baseline out of the reach of Robredo to bring up the only break point of the set—and drew a wry smile from the Spaniard. The crowd went wild, Robredo netted a forehand and Murray was left to serve it out.

Another fluke of a point ripped the heart out of Robredo—a full-blooded forehand from Murray clipped the net and died out of the reach of the racing Spanish legs. Then came an ace, a serve and volley winner and, after one last hoorah of a forehand from Robredo—a 129mph serve to finish, 7-5.

Murray confirmed afterwards what all who watched knew: “I hit the ball really, really well from the back of the court tonight from the first game, and that was pleasing because I served well the first couple of matches but maybe hadn’t hit the ball quite as I would have liked. But playing under the roof, it’s a bit easier to time the ball.

“He’s an extremely fit guy. He works very, very hard and fights for every single point and you need to be ready for that. Doesn’t matter what the score is, he’s going to chase balls down and make it very difficult. And I was ready for that.”

This was a near-perfect match for Murray, testing all his skills, demanding concentration, and giving him an intense work-out in a neat two hours. And he now has a couple days off while his next opponent will not be decided until tomorrow—victim of the rain delays. It will be either the recent Halle finalist and last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finalist, Mikhail Youzhny, or Viktor Troicki who is bidding to reach the last 16 for his second consecutive Grand Slam.

Other winners today included Jerzy Janowicz, who beat Nicolas Almagro, David Ferrer, winner over Roberto Bautista Agut, Tommy Haas over Jimmy Wang, Alexandr Dolgopolov over Santiago Giraldo, Jeremy Chardy over Jan-Lennar Struff, Jurgen Melzer over Sergiy Stakhovsky, Adrian Mannarino over Dustin Brown, and Grega Zemlja over Grigor Dimitrov.

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