Andy Murray conquers Croatian giant in Wimbledon fourth round

Murray’s win sees him into his 18th consecutive grand slam quarter-final

Andy Murray of Britain serves during his match against Ivo Karlovic of Croatia at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Andy Murray of Britain serves during his match against Ivo Karlovic of Croatia at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

 

In an often inspired, sometimes fraught masterclass of defensive tennis, Andy Murray met the mountainous challenge of Ivo Karlovic and inflicted his sixth straight win over the 6ft 11in Croatian to advance to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon for the eighth year in a row.

It is also his 18th consecutive quarter-final in a grand slam tournament, a mark of enduring excellence at the highest level.

Murray won 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 and next plays Vasek Pospisil, who earlier endured his third consecutive five-setter to beat Viktor Troicki 4-6, 6-7 (7-4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 over two hours and 39 minutes on Court 12. The young Canadian has not taken a set off Murray in their three matches.

“I came up with some good lobs, passing shots, able to use the angles a bit more, trying to keep him from coming to the net so much,” Murray said.

“Physically it’s quite quick, but mentally it’s very tiring. It wasn’t going to be the best tennis, but I felt like I passed well. When he missed his first serve, I got the return on his second serve to his feet.

“Pospisil is a tough match. He had a very close match with James Ward, came back from two sets to love today. He might be a little tired, but confident for coming back. He has a game that suits the grass, likes to come to the net, big serve.”

On Centre Court on a mild, occasionally breezy Monday afternoon, Murray produced a virtuoso mixture of control and art, attacking and receiving, against the tallest player in the game, who came to the fourth round with 136 aces to his name in the tournament.

The Scot served at around 80% on his first attempt for most of the match, and hit just eight unforced errors in a little over three hours of tennis that required his utmost concentration. Those are staggering numbers and bode well for the rest of the second week.

Murray soaked up four of Karlovic’s 29 aces in the first 20 minutes and gradually picked apart his game with deft use of the slice and rasping passing shots as his opponent charged in behind nearly every serve.

In 106 visits to the net, Karlovic won only 46 points. In one game, the 12th in the second set, Murray lobbed over his crane-like extension twice in a row and induced a false stroke with a third such effort. He did it twice again in the final set. It was audacious, inventive tennis.

The acrimony that attended their last contest here, in the second round in 2012 when Karlovic was seething over being foot-faulted 11 times, gave way to palpable bonhomie, Karlovic even mugging for the crowd by waving his arms and jumping high as Murray wound up for a smashed winner in the second set. He was less pleased with the line judge who foot-faulted him in the third set.

After a tight first set and clear dominance in the second, Murray had to cope with increased pressure in the home stretch, serving behind in the cycle. Seemingly in control, Murray had a rare lapse in the 12th game and a botched backhand gave Karlovic his first set point at 30-40. Murray then handed it to him with an off-balance forehand going backwards on the baseline, and they went to a fourth set.

About the same time, Murray’s brother Jamie and his Australian doubles partner, John Peers, were going 4-2 up against Pospisil and the American Jack Sock on Court 12 – the same setting in which Pospisil had won his singles match hours earlier.

Back on Centre Court, Murray was again serving second and desperately needed an early break to relieve the mounting pressure. He was grateful of his opponent’s third double fault in the third game, but could not capitalise on the opportunity.

In the seventh game, Karlovic could hardly believe that Hawkeye ruled against his dinked backhand, two millimetres out on a three millimetre margin of error – nor did he look pleased with Murray, who played through the shot, indicating he had also thought it was legal.

But it gave Murray the break and he celebrated with his seventh ace.

However, Karlovic was now similarly pumped up and smashed for break point, then butchered a forehand for deuce. Murray held with a quite brilliant stretched backhand volley at the net.

Serving to stay in the match, Karlovic was lobbed for the fourth and fifth times, allowing himself the slightest of smiles. He was not so happy when Murray placed a block return just inside the unprotected ad box for match point. He saved with a delicious half-volley return for deuce that caught Murray off-balance on the baseline – surely the shot of the match – and it was the Scot’s turn to grimace.

A fourth double fault betrayed nerves in his final service game, but Karlovic gifted him the result with a final too-long return.

Guardian Service

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