'There's a lot more pressure on me now': Everything going Murray's way so far at Wimbledon

  • Article by: HOWARD FENDRICH , AP Tennis Writer
  • Updated: June 29, 2013 - 3:20 AM

LONDON — Everything is going Andy Murray's way so far at this most surprise-filled of Wimbledons.

First of all, Murray has won all nine sets he's played to reach the fourth round.

Then there's this: The four top-10 men who already departed were all on his half of the field — No. 3 Roger Federer, No. 5 Rafael Nadal, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 10 Marin Cilic. Federer has won seven Wimbledon titles and Nadal two, while Tsonga was a semifinalist in 2011 and 2012.

Entering Saturday, no one seeded higher than 20th was left for No. 2 Murray to possibly face before the final.

Then again, that also adds to the ever-surging expectations that he can become the first British man in 77 years to win the championship at the All England Club.

"There's a lot more pressure on me now, with them being out. I mean, I don't read the papers and stuff. But there are papers in the locker room," Murray said with a chuckle, "so you see some of the headlines and stuff. It's not that helpful."

He put together a strong performance Friday, taking advantage of the zero-wind conditions under Centre Court's retractable roof to compile 40 winners and only 14 unforced errors in a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 victory over 32nd-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain.

"You need to be professional enough to not let that stuff bother you and just concentrate on each match," said Murray, who has won 20 of his past 21 contests on grass, including runs to last year's final at Wimbledon (where he lost to Federer) and a London Olympics gold medal (by beating Federer).

"I did a good job of that today," he continued. "I played well. My best match of the tournament."

Murray was on target throughout — with his serves, his returns, his volleys, his groundstrokes. He won 60 of 80 points on his serve, including 14 of 15 in one stretch. He broke Robredo four straight times, then again in the next-to-last game.

Robredo's no slouch, by the way. He's been ranked as high as No. 5, albeit back in 2006. He's been a major quarterfinalist a half-dozen times. At this year's French Open, he became the first man in 86 years to win three consecutive Grand Slam matches after facing two-set deficits. And he entered Friday with a 2-2 record against Murray in tour-level events.

But they hadn't played in an official tournament since 2009, and they'd never met on grass or at a major, two categories where Murray is excelling lately.

After lingering on court to sign autographs — one excited boy hugged an oversized tennis ball adorned with his man's signature as if it were the most precious thing he'd ever held — Murray was asked whether last year's success at the Summer Games and Flushing Meadows alleviated Britain's intense desire for him to win it all at the All England Club.

"Uh, no, from what I've heard," Murray replied. "People are putting even more pressure on me because of the nature of how the draw's worked out. I've just got to try and stay focused, not worry about that stuff. But it's hard."

Nadal's stunning first-round exit, for example, was viewed mainly through the prism of how that result helped Murray, who could have faced the 12-time major champion in the semifinals. "Adios Rafa. Hello Andy. Wimbledon dreams again," read a headline in The Times of London. The Daily Mail's take: "Great start for Andy — Rafa's out."

On Saturday, the only two men remaining aside from Murray who've won a Grand Slam title, No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro, try to join him in Week 2. Djokovic owns six major trophies, including Wimbledon in 2011, and del Potro won the 2009 U.S. Open.

The schedule also included top-seeded and defending champion Serena Williams against 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, as well as the resumption of suspended matches involving 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova (who trailed No. 25 Ekaterina Makarova 2-1 in the third set) and 17th-seeded Sloane Stephens (heading into a final set against Petra Cetkovska).

Saturday closes what's been a wild first week. In addition to the four top-10 men who are gone, six top-10 women exited by the end of the second round, too, equaling the worst performance by the highest seeds at any Grand Slam tournament in the 45-year history of the Open era.

Speaking about the anyone-can-beat-anyone feel, 37th-ranked Jurgen Melzer of Austria said: "There has been so much talk about it, you cannot ignore it."

He put a stop to it, though, at least as far as Sergiy Stakhovsky was concerned. Two days after serving-and-volleying his way past 17-time major champion Federer, Stakhovsky played more the way a guy ranked 116th would be expected to, losing 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 to Melzer.

"I think," Stakhovsky said, "I just played stupid."

It's a common sight at major tournaments: An unknown player knocks out a big name, then fails to follow it up with another victory.

The same thing happened to 66th-ranked Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, who went from beating 12th-seeded Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open titlist, on Wednesday to losing to No. 19 Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5, 6-2 on Friday. And 131st-ranked qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, who eliminated four-time major champion Maria Sharapova in the second round, then bowed out 7-5, 6-2 against 104th-ranked Karin Knapp of Italy in the third.

"That was a huge win for me," Larcher de Brito said. "But it was tough for me to hang in there today."

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