Queen’s 2016: Andy Murray beats Bedene to set Kyle Edmund quarter-final

Andy Murray beats fellow Brit Aljaz Bedene in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals at Queen's Club

There is no question that everyone involved in the Aegon Championships this year has had to be on the ball. The weather proved to be a challenge even before the tournament began, and continued to disrupt schedules, players and fans from Day 1. Monday itself was a complete wash-out bar one match.

The draw itself raised eyebrows: Four of the five Britons, and the highest ranked four, fell into the top quarter, each of them opening against a Frenchman. Record books were scoured to find the last time that four Britons had won their first matches at this tournament. The answer was 2005, when Queen’s still hosted an ATP250 tournament with a 56-man draw.

In the event, three of the Britons made the second round, with Dan Evans missing out by the narrowest of margins. Now the record books were trawled again for the last time two Britons had contested a quarter-final, for top seed Andy Murray or the second-ranked Briton Aljaz Bedene would certainly fill one of the spots, and the ever-improving 21-year-old Kyle Edmund was a strong bet to beat veteran Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, who took two hours 35 minutes to beat Evans.

Edmund was scheduled first on Centre Court, for a 12.30 start, but as rain again poured down on Queen’s Club, there was another twist in the story. Mathieu had pulled out with a wrist injury, and Edmund thus received a walkover straight into a certain all-British quarter-final. That put Murray and Bedene into the frame first… and all rather sooner than expected.

For lest anyone at Queen’s Club be oblivious, home nation England was also scheduled to play British rivals Wales in the Euro 2016 championships on Thursday afternoon.

Edmund was asked how he would go about beating Murray, and to his credit, batted the question into touch.

“That’s not very fair to Aljaz. [Andy’s] obviously the favourite to win, but you’ve got to wait and see who wins. That’s the professional thing to do. I’ve got good respect for both players. I know Andy will respect Aljaz a lot. Aljaz will respect Andy a lot.

“Yeah, we’ll see what happens. I guess it’s nice that there are two British matchups now in two days. It’s good for the fans.”

And in fairness, Bedene was enjoying some fine form. He reached his first Grand Slam third round at Roland Garros, and overcame a tricky, higher ranked opponent, Benoit Paire, in near darkness here on Tuesday night in three sets.

He admitted afterwards: “Hopefully better conditions, drier, just try to adapt on grass. And, yeah, the first thing is enjoy it, put my game on the court and see what happens. So if I stand a chance, I have to play great.”

The conditions were only a little drier, with gusty, chill winds swirling around the arena. Occasional glimpses of blue sky were quickly smothered in iron-grey clouds—yet the rain stayed away for the entire hour and half that the two Brits were on court.

Murray opened, but it took him six minutes to fend off an early break point and two deuces. Bedene responded in kind, defending deuces courtesy of two winning lobs from Murray to hold. It had taken them 12 minutes to reach 1-1.

Murray’s serving steadily found a groove, though, and he held the more easily of the two. Twice, Bedene came back from 0-30 down and held for 3-3 with a fine running forehand pass. But come the eighth game, and Murray got the break he sought: He served out the set with an ace, 6-3.

Bedene was soon under heavy pressure again in the second, but fought off break point to hold. Murray, though, got the advantage in the third game, only to hand it straight back in the fourth with two netted backhands in a row.

Yet again Bedene fought off break point, but Murray was proving more impregnable by the minute, perhaps spurred on by the heavy skies overhead. Sure enough, he broke again in the seventh game, held to love and served out the win, 6-4, after an hour and 23 minutes.

So Murray will take on Edmund in the first all-British ATP quarter-final since Tim Henman beat Greg Rusedski in Adelaide in 2002. Henman went on to win the title, and it would surprise no-one if Murray went on to win this one—for a record fifth time.

While the British contest was unfolding on Centre Court, a dramatic face-off between two of the biggest servers in the tournament was reaching its climax on the adjacent Court 1.

No7 seed John Isner had already dispatched Juan Martin del Potro, and seemed to have this one under control after breaking the leftie Gilles Muller to take the first set, 6-4.

But they headed to a tie-break in the second set, and point by point, they out-gunned each other, exchanging match points and set points all the way to 16-16.

All in all, Muller would save 10 match points, finally edging the advantage for the second set, 7-6(16)—the longest tie-break at Queen’s Club since 1997. And the man from Luxembourg did the same in the second set, taking the match, 7-6(6), after over two hours and 25 minutes. Between them, they had hit 69 aces,

Muller next plays the winner between Fernando Verdasco and Bernard Tomic.

And Euro 2016? An hour later, and more than 120 years after England beat Wales 1-1 at the Queen’s Club, the home nation scored a late winner against Wales in France to win, 2-1.

Yes, everyone at the Aegon Championships had to be on the toes today.

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