Murray prevails over Ivan Ljubicic, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4), but hardly looks like a serious contender to win a Slam.


Much was made of the fact that Ljubicic has never played on Centre Court, mainly due to never having been past the third round at Wimbledon. He took the court today clearly resolved to make the most of this opportunity. Murray started well, hitting six aces in the first four games, but after failing to convert four break points on Ljubicic’s serve, he played a woeful service game to be broken himself for 4-3. Although Murray would break back immediately and take the set with some textbook corner-to-corner hitting, the British No. 1 looked far from happy with himself, slapping his thigh and punching his racquet; he was as dark and stormy in his behavior as the weather was damp and disheartening. That’s classic Andy Murray, too.

Ljubicic was the soul of calm, responding to Murray’s alternately electrifying and appalling play with the same expressionless demeanor. He came into the match with a clear plan to attack Murray’s weak second serve and temperamental forehand as often as possible, and a low first-serve percentage throughout the match from Murray played right into the Croat’s hands. After breaking in the second, Ljubicic used his own fearsome serve to finish the set, consistently making it into the net to end the point on his own terms, rather than allowing Murray to extract the error. Perhaps unlucky to be broken in the third set—Ljubicic chose to volley a ball that looked like it was going wide, and missed—the 33-year-old seemed to run out of steam as Murray got better, cruising to a 6-1 win and breaking early in the fourth. Despite missing too many first serves and the occasional errant forehand, Murray was playing so well that on Ljubicic’s serve at 2-4, he hit the under-the-leg volley winner he debuted at Queens; exhibition tennis.

Still, Ljubicic proved the maxim that no player should take his eye off the ultimate objective for even a moment, when he hit a great return to set up break points as Murray served for the match. Murray erred in failing to challenge an overrule by umpire Jake Garner, but it was a casual game and the Scot was justly punished with a break of serve. Taken to a tiebreak, it was a quintessential Murray point that finally put him ahead; fantastic anticipation and hands landed a lucky, deep return right on the baseline to get him into a rally which eventually drew an error from Ljubicic. He took the match with a forehand winner and a rare, relieved smile.

Hardly the serene progress that one might hope for from the fourth seed, but with all the challenges ahead in Murray’s draw—he faces Richard Gasquet next, who shares a coach with Ljubicic—it may be as well to get match-tough and do it early. Despite Ljubicic’s great play, Murray left himself vulnerable, and being forced to dig deep and outlast an opponent may not be the best way to get through a third-round match. But it’s classic Andy Murray—and it’s definitely better than the alternative.


Courtesy of Hannah Wilks



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