For a public high on the exploits of Heather Watson, James Ward and the hope that British tennis is inching its way to respectability, the prospect of both Murray brothers in Wimbledon finals seems tantalising.
The prospect moves ever closer following Jamie Murray’s semi-final victory alongside the Australian John Peers in the men’s doubles. After losing a set, the pair saw off Israel’s Jonathan Erlich and the German Philipp Petzschner 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. At least one Murray will contest a Wimbledon final.
It was a victory hard won. There were tight early skirmishes, with each duo holding serve until the seventh game when Murray lost his serve to give their opponents a 4-3 lead. Both held again but the single break allowed Petzschner to serve out the set after just half an hour.
Murray and Peers started the second set more combatively and broke Petzschner’s serve to take a 2-0 lead. Serving in the third game, the Scot showed great athleticism, chasing down and angling an acute forehand winner and fending off two break points to hold and take a 3-0 lead. He was cheered but nothing he would do could eclipse the ovation given to the member of the crowd who caught a ball when it flew into the Royal Box. But then Jamie Murray, for all his talents, is not David Beckham.
Still, Murray and Peers had the momentum and after almost an hour’s play, his serve stretched the advantage to 5-2. His opponents won the best point of the set; a quickfire duel which saw all four players lunging for volleys at the net and Petzschner winning the point before falling flat on his back. But Peers held to level the match at a set apiece.
The third set was immediately more competitive with each man comfortably holding serve until the fourth game when Murray was taken to deuce. He survived after Erlich left a forehand from the Scot, thinking it was going long, only to see it drop two inches inside the line. The exchanges were tight.
At one point a frustrated Murray threw his racket on to the grass. And yet he was fired up with good reason. In the ninth game, at 4-4, pressure from Murray and Peers paid off and they secured a break. Serving crisply, Peers held and the pair took the third set.
They took the initiative into the fourth set by breaking Petzschner’s serve at the outset and inflicting the same pain on the German in the fifth game to go 4-1 up. Petzschner and Erlich sought a way back with a barrage of ground strokes but found Murray and Peers impregnable.
Erlich held his serve, leaving Murray to serve the final game, which he began with an 112mph ace. Peers sealed the win with a crisp volley at the net.
Murray, 29 and winner of the mixed doubles in 2007 with Jelena Jankovic, attributed much of his success this year in the men’s competition to the fanaticism of the Wimbledon crowd.
As a Brit and a Murray, he has a certain following. Add in the boisterous advocacy of Peers by the hardcore Australian supporters – the Fanatics – and the pair can rely on a substantial headwind.
Both are now guaranteed a share of £170,000 with the prospect of double that if they win on Saturday. And beyond the guaranteed spoils, a chance for glory. Murray senior – Jamie – may well join Murray minor in the Great Britain Davis Cup team to play France at Queen’s Club next weekend. And afterwards he said he will spend Friday practising for his own final rather than watching Andy battle his own semi-final against Roger Federer. “We have to focus on our own match,” he said. “I will watch it on TV, that will be more relaxing. He is going to have to play a lot of great tennis over the last few days to lift the trophy again but he is full of confidence and has a great chance.”
He spoke of life as a doubles grand slam champion yet still in his younger brother’s shadow. “People talk to me because they want to talk about Andy, but we are doing great things ourselves. All the hard work we have put in has paid off.”
Murray said he and Peers were acutely aware that on the other side of the net, Erlich was struggling with a knee injury. “He was kind of on one leg at one point. I took some time to get into it but we always felt that we would find a way.”
The victory vindicates his decision to work through a period during which he had no regular partner and his enjoyment of the doubles circuit dipped. “It wasn’t much fun for me and I wasn’t enjoying it but the opportunity came to do something with John and it has worked out.”The pair will play the Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer and Romania’s Horia Tecau, who overcame Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea in five sets on Court Two, in the final.
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