A right Royal battle
It's all shaping up for an epic Wimbledon tie between Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, says Gerry Williams.
Last Updated: 25/06/10 10:16am
It was a very special Wimbledon day indeed.
After 33 years' absence, the Queen was there in the Royal Box, seated just in front of people like Tim Henman and Virginia Wade. The place was rightly sprinkled with other distinguished British tennis players of the past.
And clearly Andy Murray was the right dish to set before the Queen as he was challenged by a tall Finnish left-hander, Jarkko Nieminen. A fortuitous match-up, I would say.
Nieminen comes across as a spontaneous, uncomplicated aggressor and he looked as if he was intending to enjoy the occasion.
But Murray is the cannier of the two on the tennis court and he has the greater control of the ball too. In no time he rather studiously took the first set 6-3. He never relinquished control of things.
Simultaneously on the other main court Maria Sharapova, who insists she has now fully recovered from her serious shoulder surgery, was sweeping past young Romanian Ioana Raluca Olaru - whose name will take years to learn to pronounce.
Sharapova is one of three Wimbledon singles champions in the women's draw. She is remembered too little for her ability and too much for her grunting.
As I expected, the women's singes at Wimbledon this year has been transformed from last year's doldrums by Sharapova's return to form and the re-emergence from retirement of two Belgians, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters.
Then, just before 4pm, we all headed out to court 18 because there was the little matter of the conclusion (if ever there was to be one) of the world's longest tennis match between John Isner (US) and Nicolas Mahut (Fra) who had come off court the night before with their business unfinished after 10 hours and the score level at 59-all in the fifth set.
The fact is I couldn't get anywhere near the court, such was the public's interest in this phenomenal.
On the roof of the broadcast centre which overlooks it, packs of camera crews and reporters - as well as everyone else - made it impossible to see a thing.
I had toyed with the thought that a couple of double faults or a miss-hit or two from these surely weary young men and it would soon be over. How wrong I was. It was the day before all over again.
Then, after 11 hours five minutes and 215 aces it suddenly did end. At 68-69, with Mahut serving, he conceded one point with a tame shot into the net and a minute later, stranded at match point down, Isner arrowed a backhand down the sideline. It was all over.
After it all ended Isner said he felt "a little bit tired".
My final thought on this phenomenal drama is this: the list of the nine longest matches ever played before Messrs Isner and Mahut got locked in combat here this week all happened either in Grand Slam Championships or in the Davis Cup when players compete for their countries.
Of course, Slams and Davis Cup are all the best of five set matches so it follows you will find marathons there. But my point is this: it is in these events that players find by far the greatest inspiration. Believe it or not, it is not primarily about money. Call me naïve, but my case rests there.
Lastly I must note that here was a real sting in the tail yesterday. The Dutchman Robin Haase, all six foot three of him and ranked as low as 151 following at trying injury, led Rafa Nadal by two sets to one.
Nadal muscled it through in the end and I still hold to the view that a semi-final between and him and our Andy could be the key match before the final.