From having fans cheering in the stands to having strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, tennis is taking nothing for granted amid the pandemic. Witnessing former World No. 1 Andy Murray fighting tooth and nail for an epic comeback on Centre Court felt like a comforting slice of normalcy on Wednesday night. But will the two-time former champion be recovered in time for his next big test as Day 5 dawns at SW19?
Murray is set to face 22-year-old Denis Shapovalov, the 10th seed, in the last match on Centre Court for a spot in the fourth round. Shapovalov has been going from strength to strength during the grass-court swing, reaching the quarter-finals in Stuttgart and semi-finals at The Queen’s Club.
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Shapovalov will also come into the matchup rested and ready: While Murray was locked into a fifth set against qualifier Oscar Otte, the Canadian was watching from the comfort of the hotel after receiving a walkover from Pablo Andujar (rib injury) to move into the third round.
“Honestly just as a tennis fan, it was fun to watch,” Shapovalov said of Murray’s 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 comeback. “[As] a fan of Andy’s, to see him back and moving so well, especially those last two sets, how he turned it around… It felt like he was the player that he was a couple of years back. It was really exciting to see.”
Along with his years of experience at Wimbledon and his never-say-die determination, Murray will have one other big weapon in his arsenal against Shapovalov in their first ATP Head2Head: the Centre Court crowd. They have willed him over the finish line many times in the past, and will be sure to give Shapovalov a debut to remember on this court.
With the Centre Court crowd firmly behind him, Murray has already pulled off one improbable comeback during the fortnight. On Friday evening, he will be counting on them again… each and every single one of them.
“I picked a few people in the crowd and was basically staring at them pretty much after every point and trying to just engage with them,” Murray said after his win over Otte. “The crowd created a great atmosphere, but I think I was also engaging them and we were feeding off each other a lot at the end.
“I hope the fans like it and don’t think that it’s a bit weird that I’m sort of staring at them and screaming at them for like an hour, but they seem to enjoy it, as well.”
Also in action on Day 5, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will headline No. 1 Court action as he meets Denis Kudla at a Grand Slam for the third time in their ATP Head2Head. Djokovic did not drop a set against the American, No. 114 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, when they faced off at Wimbledon or the US Open in 2019.
Djokovic, who lifted the trophy here in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019, is aiming for his third consecutive Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy. A victory at the end of the fortnight would secure an all-time record tying 20th Grand Slam crown – and tighten his grip on the pole position in the battle for year-end No. 1.
Elsewhere at the All England Club, fifth seed Andrey Rublev will take on 26th seed Fabio Fognini on No. 3 Court. The Italian owns the 5-2 ATP Head2Head edge over Rublev, but all of their meetings have taken place on hard and clay courts. The Russian, who won their most recent match at the ATP Cup en route to Russia’s victory, will be high on confidence on grass after reaching his first final on the surface last week in Halle.