Wimbledon: Murray d. Lopez
After the sturm und drang of Federer vs. Tsonga and Djokovic vs. Tomic, Andy Murray’s three-set defeat of Feliciano Lopez was as relaxed and straightforward as it is possible for a Murray match at Wimbledon to be. Facing an opponent who he had never beaten and who had battled through a five-set epic in the previous round, Murray began the match in confident fashion, coolly batting the ball around and waiting for Lopez to miss. The Spaniard obliged, setting his defeat in train; Murray won 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Potentially emotionally flat, clearly physically struggling—the trainer came on twice to attend to his left leg—Lopez needed to serve extremely well to impose his game on Centre Court. It was a tough ask against one of the best returners in men’s tennis, and despite having hit 100 aces in his first four matches—Murray hit his 50th in the first game—Lopez didn’t serve well today, and without that cornerstone, the rest of his game failed to impress. Murray broke serve just once in each set, curiously enough in Lopez’s third service game each time, a synchronicity which emphasized his level of control over the match.
Attacking the second serve, punishing passing shots and relentlessly targeting the Lopez backhand were tactics Murray used to keep that control, as well as hitting 13 aces. Lopez, on the other hand, did not do well in attacking Murray’s weak second serve, the clearest example coming when he finally earned two break points after a double fault in the third set. At 4-3, 30-40, having already saved one break point, Murray put in a second serve so weak that it was either an audacious, Chang-esque attempt to bamboozle Lopez or simply a bad, bad serve—only for Lopez to put it well long as he attempted to chip and charge for the first time in the match. It was not an opportunity he would get again.
In the end, the most worrying aspect of Murray’s match today had nothing to do with his opponent; early in the third set, moving to his forehand side, an awkward misstep left him limping and appearing uncomfortable for the rest of the match. The BBC reporter who asked him about it afterwards received short shrift when he suggested it might be serious—as he did when he awkwardly attempted to tease Murray about being a hypochondriac. Murray, unamused, insisted he was sure he would be fine.
So Lopez leaves SW19 having reached his third quarterfinal, an effort to be proud of, and Murray moves on untroubled to the semifinals, where he will attempt the toughest task in tennis: beating Rafael Nadal. With that in mind, it may be a good thing that he conserved his energy and made it a routine victory today.