HeraldScotland blogger Gary Johnston - and friends - enjoy the latest instalment of Andy Murray's sojourn in the Rod Laver Arena
The Big Man needs a test.
That’s the unanimous verdict of the wee group of people I’ve been watching the tennis with. We’ve bonded, the same way you do with those people you sit next to at the football.
There’s me and Billy ‘Mr Zydeco’ Abbott of course, his daughter Nina Simone, Dave the Scot, Beryl the delectable Kiwi, Alan fae Dufftown, and Ped who won’t give me his full name because, as he says: ‘I’ve got more warrants out for me than ‘Bible John’.
Our own wee Murray Mob. One of many, I might say.
We’re all agreed - Andy hasn’t really been tested so far and, although this is the fifth game he’s played, it feels like the Murray campaign begins right now.
His opponent today is the fruitily named Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, a great moniker Billy points out, so much better than Tam Lanliq or Shuggy Buckfast.
Chardy will be emptied, he predicts. (Yeah and we’ll see if he has any bottle, if he’ll be crushed like a grape, last as long as a 1990s Hen night - let’s get all the cheap Chardy gags out of the way early.)
A good work out against this bloke will be just what The Big Man needs. Will Chardy be to his tastes? (Sorry, but once you get started...)
Andy truly needs a good work out. He gets one.
Jeremy doesn’t look like a Jeremy. He’s tall and kind of mean looking with a black beard that gives him a slight touch of Rasputin the Mad Monk. And he can play – passing shots, lobs and a vicious forehand that rips across the court at warp factor 23.
But The Big Man is better. Fewer mistakes, more ruthlessness, less mumping, he puts Chardy to the sword. He empties him.
It’s no cakewalk. There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and Chardy wins plenty of points, but Andy is much too good.
The best we’ve seen in this tournament by far, some of his shots are amazing, in every part of the game: retrieving, passing, serving and making magical down-the-line winners that almost defy belief.
This, take my word for it, is championship form. In fact, take Dave the Scot’s word for it, as he really knows what he’s on about. Prior to this week, I thought a tennis racquet was only good for killing cane toads.
After he closes the game out, Andy’s totally relaxed for the after game interview, peeling off his wristbands and tossing them into the crowd with a purposeful smile and a steely demeanour that you just know means business.
Next up is the semi-final and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or the great Roger Federer, a man so elegant and fastidious he insists on his underpants being ironed to a military standard. (I should imagine).
It’s going to be a scramble for tickets for our wee Murray Mob but I think we’ll be all right. Actually I know we will - Ped has kind of guaranteed it.
‘Women used to love Chardonnay, d’ye remember that?’, Billy Abbott says to me as we head for a celebration swally. ‘Used to love it, now they wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.’
‘A bit like you and him’ says Nina Simone pointing at her dad and me. Making us feel well, old and dry...but also buttery, citrusy on the back palate and with a hint of oak. Cheers!