Oh well, you can’t have everything. Andy Murray may have reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, the 12th grand slam semifinal of his career, and he may have done so in stunning style and double-quick time, but he is rubbish at chucking towels.
When the world No.3 had completed his 6-4 6-1 6-2 drubbing of Jeremy Chardy on Wednesday afternoon, he did what most players do: he started lobbing little mementoes into the crowd. Off came the sweatbands (some lucky soul will treasure them), and out came the official towels. And at $55 a pop, they are more than worth keeping. Except that one of the sport’s finest athletes and one of the world’s best players could not throw the towel far enough to reach the outstretched hands of the faithful. Instead, an unsuspecting cameraman at the court side got a face full of towel, and Murray looked a tad embarrassed.
“Yeah, I missed the crowd by about 10 feet,” Murray said. “Pathetic effort!”
Not that such failings were going to spoil the Scot’s day. His win had been expected – 33 ranking spots separate Murray at No.3 from Chardy – but it was the manner of the victory that brought the smile to his face. It was not that his rival was playing badly – far from it – it was just that Murray was playing very well. Very, very well. In the last couple of rounds, he had been looking a scratchy, a little ragged, but not on Wednesday, not against Chardy. The Muzz meant business and no one, particularly not a rejuvenated, revived, reinvented Frenchman, was going to stop him.
Chardy had hoped that his run to the last eight was the start of something big. His first appearance in a grand slam quarterfinal had been orchestrated by his coach and best mate Kerei Abakar, and had been built around a thumping forehand and a new-found confidence. These attributes had been enough to dismiss Juan Martin del Potro in the third round, so surely they could give Murray something to think about. Apparently not.
Chardy came out with all guns blazing – he was serving like a rocket launcher and clobbering that forehand – but it made not the smallest of dents in Murray’s defences. For the first time in the tournament, the world No.3 looked to be at the very top of his game, and he was in complete control from first ball until last. No wonder he looked relaxed and happy once his 111-minute workout was over.
“Today was the best I’ve played so far,” he said. “I struggled in my last few rounds and I knew he’d beaten some top players. I knew I had to be sharp. I moved well today.”
Murray’s work had been done, and now it was time to prepare for the semis. So far, he has not played a night match, which may be something of an issue when he finally gets to experience the cooler, night-time conditions at Rod Laver Arena. But by the sound of his plans for Wednesday evening, he would not have traded his match schedule with Messrs Federer and Tsonga for all the tea in China.
“I’m going to go an take an ice bath,” he said, “then I’ve got my media commitments which usually take about an hour, then I’ll get some food and hope that Roger and Jo play for four or five hours or so.”
And presumably as he lies on his hotel bed, his feet up and idling watching the television with Fed and Jo-Willie hard at work, he will practice his towel chucking technique. A chap with his eyes on the title needs to be getting that right.