One topic rippled around Wimbledon more than any other before Andy Murray's semi-final against Jerzy Janowicz at the conclusion of these unpredictable, utterly engaging championships: how the Scot would handle the rockets leaving the Pole's racket at up to 140mph.
If he does so efficiently – as he has done against giants such as the 6ft 10in Ivo Karlovic here last year and the 6ft 9in John Isner in the past – he is in the final on Sunday, most probably against Novak Djokovic for their third grand slam title-decider in a row. Murray has good reason to be confident: he is 9-1 against players 6ft 8in and taller, the sole blemish against Janowicz, when they met for the second time in Paris last year.
If he does not tame him this time, though, he will trundle the 20 minutes back to his home in Oxshott, Surrey, in his Volkswagen Polo, close the doors behind him, order a pizza, flick on the TV and, as in the post-defeat haze of last year's final against Roger Federer, wonder where it all went wrong.
In five matches at SW19, Janowicz has tormented his opponents with 94 aces, 31 more than his nearest rival for raw serving power, Ivan Dodig. Murray has hit 60 – so he is not exactly carrying a pop-gun on to court. However, only in the Pole's truncated match against Radek Stepanek in the second round did his level dip a little.
The world No 24 has been formidable, never more so than when reaching a frightening pitch against his compatriot Lukasz Kubot in their quarter-final on Wednesday.
Thirty times in a little more than two hours, Kubot saw the service ball rip into the back canvas unimpeded. Echoing embarrassment does not come more graphically.
So Murray, having negotiated a series of left hooks in his own quarter-final from Fernando Verdasco, who hit a high of 136mph among his 11 aces, is prepared now for an onslaught of right-hand bombs from Janowicz, whose high ball-toss allows him to send the ball over the net from the altogether daft height of 12ft and more – probably around the eye-line of the chair umpire.
Murray is ready – and not especially worried. "I think the return is the best part of my game," he says. "Normally, the big players don't like playing against guys who are returning their biggest weapon. Some times they can take that weapon away from you by serving at 140mph, and for a long part of my match I wasn't able to return a lot of Verdasco's serves. Even on the second serve he was coming up with huge serves as well.
"Sometimes you can't control how well they serve and, if you're not reading the serve, it's tough. Often when you play against guys with big serves the sets come down to a just a few points and who plays the big points better. I need to be able to take my chances when they come."
Tim Henman, who has practised with Murray recently, says: "Andy is one of the very best at returning big serves. His technique helps because he likes to stand a long way back and then move forward and that does give him a bit of extra time.
"He's got a very neutral grip on the return of serve, so there's no big grip change. He doesn't have big swings and so it's a little bit like the goalkeeper in a penalty shootout: he's trying to pop the ball back, and get himself into those rallies – and that's where Janowicz has had a lot of success. But one of the reasons I think Andy will win is that he will return serve better than others and get into baseline rallies and that's where he will begin to turn the tables."
As well as the specifics, however, are the intangibles.
"I had my moments when I wasn't playing well," Henman says. "I got in some pretty deep holes. But I'd like to think there was sometimes a slightly clear picture of what I was trying to do. Sometimes when I am watching Andy I would quite like to open the door and shout over the top of the canvas. What would I say? I'm not sure it would be too technical!
"It's with his game style. This is something that has been ingrained for such a long time, him being proactive and dictating play. When you saw him against Tommy Robredo [blitzed in the third round], he struck the ball so cleanly and was so aggressive with his backhand down the line. When I practised with him at Queen's, he stood there for about 10 minutes hitting second-serve returns. It was phenomenal how cleanly he hit the ball and how few errors he made. It's a work in progress. Let's not forget how far he has come in the last 12 months, with the results he has had. But I would like to see him let it fly more often."
It will be a fascinating duel – as will Djokovic's semi-final against Juan Martín del Potro, for entirely different reasons. The conundrum there will be how long the Argentinian can stand and deliver his own booming serves and ground-strokes after a fall this week that wrenched his left knee. If he were to beat the world No1 on one leg for a wholly unexpected crack at his second grand slam title, it would rank not far below the earlier earthquakes in this tournament, the defeats in the first three days of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
A Janowicz-Del Potro final? Much stranger things have already made this the most memorable Wimbledon for a long time.
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