Andy Murray thanked the Centre Court crowd for pulling him through a gruelling five-set quarter-final with Fernando Verdasco on Wednesday night, claiming the atmosphere made a "huge difference" during a victory that secures a last-four spot at SW19 for a fifth successive year.
Murray had to battle from two sets down to prevail 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 in almost three and a half hours of enthralling tennis, reaching the last four of a grand slam event for the 13th time to equal Fred Perry's British record for semi-final appearances. The Scot will play Poland's big-serving Jerzy Janowicz on Friday as he looks to negotiate a path to the final for a second successive year, where Novak Djokovic will lie in wait should he overcome Juan Martín del Potro.
Spectators have not always taken Murray to their hearts in the same way as they embraced the former British No1, Tim Henman, yet rarely has Centre Court seemed as raucous during a championships as it did on Wednesday evening.
Murray used the partisan crowd at last year's Olympics to his advantage, notably when recording victory over Roger Federer in the final, and admitted the noise spurred him on when two sets down to Verdasco. "When I went behind the crowd definitely got right behind me and made a huge, huge difference," he said. "If they can be like that from the first point to the last in all of the matches, it makes a huge difference.
"I just think it's a great atmosphere to be playing in. I love it when it's like that, it was extremely noisy and they were right into it pretty much at every single point.
"That's what you remember. It's not one point really, it's more just the atmosphere of the entire match. It was good today, especially when I went behind. Towards the end there was an unbelievable atmosphere."
Verdasco, the unseeded world No54, produced a fine display of ruthless serving and powerful baseline hitting to punish a slow start from Murray, whose second serve in the early stages appeared particularly vulnerable.
However, watched by his compatriot Sir Alex Ferguson from the Royal Box – with some saying Murray's win came in "Fergie time" – he went on the attack and turned the tie on its head, in doing so overtaking Henman as the most successful British man at Wimbledon in the open era.
Janowicz will be a different proposition, preferring to come to the net rather than slug it out from the baseline. The three-time champion John McEnroe has already said that the 6ft 8in Pole is the "real deal" with "grand slam-winning potential" and Murray is expecting a difficult test.
"It will be a very tough match," he said. "He has a big serve, he's a big guy with a lot of power. He also has pretty good touch and likes to hit drop shots – he doesn't just whack every single shot as hard as he can."
Asked about dealing with the British support for Murray, Janowicz said: "For sure the crowd will not really help me but we'll see. This is my first semi-final ever so I don't know what to expect. It will be a really cool match, a really nice atmosphere."
Murray's attempt to become the first British winner at SW19 since Perry in 1936 remains intact although having previously not dropped a set, his recovery from an arduous contest will be vital if he is to go on and lift the trophy. Djokovic dropped his first service games of the tournament against Tomas Berdych but still breezed into the semi-finals in straight sets.
"It was a tough situation," added Murray. "The second set was a bad set of tennis for me. I was 3-1 up and then made some bad mistakes, poor choices on the court. Then I turned it round really well after that. You're concerned how the match is going and that you may lose. But when you've been in that position a lot of times you know how to think through it and not get too far ahead of yourself.
"I actually feel pretty good just now, I don't feel too bad. But it's normally the following morning when you'll feel it. I'm happy to be in the semis regardless of whether it's been five sets or the first matches were in three sets – it makes no difference."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © carine06