There should be tears, fears, shredded nerves and the odd bashed racket. It should, in short, be the tennis equivalent of scoring the winner against Liechtenstein seven minutes into injury time.
Andy Murray, instead, breezed through to play Rafael Nadal in his third consecutive Wimbledon semi-final by beating Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in one hour 53 minutes. It was the sort of result old football writers would describe as a drubbing.
Senor Feliciano, the world No.44, has attracted admiring glances for his physique. Judy Murray, the mother of the world No.4, has publicly declared her admiration. Her son beat up the object of her affections on Centre Court yesterday.
There was a moment when a wag from the crowd cried: “Come on Feliciano! Do it for Judy.” Murray waved his racket towards the player’s box where his mother sat in a gesture of embarrassment familiar to children everywhere.
He then used the same implement to humiliate the Spaniard. “Deliciano” may be hot, but he was cooked yesterday. Instead of meeting at the net after less than two hours of action, Murray could have been forgiven for sticking a fork in Lopez and turning him over to see if he was done. He was.
Lopez, who had fired 100 aces in the tournament before this meeting, came into the match with a gameplan based on blasting Murray on his serve and then trying to steal a break from the Scot.
It was immediately obvious that this plan was a triumph of hope but an ultimate victim of experience. It was Murray who flexed his muscles on the serve. The Dunblane player served 13 to the Spaniard’s miserly seven.
The Scot enhanced his reputation as the best returner in the game and his first serve percentage of 58%, while hardly spectacular, was more than enough to keep Lopez pinned back. The Spaniard won four points from the Murray serve in the first set. More than an hour had passed before he celebrated taking a fifth.
After the turbulence and drama of the Roger Federer v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga match, the Centre Court crowd was sedately entertained by a gentle Murray stroll in the sun. This is not to belittle the Scot’s performance, but rather to praise it. As Federer, Novak Djokovic and Nadal will attest, last eight matches are supposed to provide something approaching a stern test.
The Murray crisis file was almost empty. It was the 21st game before he was even forced to a deuce on his serve. It was only in the Scot’s penultimate service game that Lopez forced two break points. Predictably, almost inevitably, Murray saved them.
It was almost the final insult for Lopez. That, though, was reserved for the final game. Murray served three aces to secure victory. The big server of Spain was thus beaten by the big server from Dunblane. The man who lived by the sword had died from it.
The bleeding had started in the first set. The strength of Lopez was blunted and Murray broke him to lead 4-2. The Scot had three set points on Lopez’s serve but waited to take the ball in hand to end the first set.
The second set was decided when Murray broke to go 3-1 ahead with the help of an outrageous save and then an exceptional forehand.
The third set had its limited drama. Murray clutched his groin in the second game but continued to move freely. He played down the injury later, saying: “It’s a little sore at the top of my hip. I will have a better idea tomorrow of how it is.”
The other minor crisis was when Lopez forced those two break points which Murray, of course, saved.
It was that sort of afternoon for the Scot. There was nothing Lopez could do to confound him, little he could attempt to trouble the world No.4. “He played unbelievable tennis,” the Spaniard said of Murray, who extended his winning record over Lopez to 5-0.
The world No.4 now faces a slightly more vexing task as he takes on another Spaniard tomorrow. “Very tough. Very tough,” was the less than original verdict of Lopez on Murray v Nadal. “If Andy manages to play the way he plays today, is it going to be very tough for Rafa. Of course, it is a totally different game. I’m a more aggressive player. I come in. Rafa is a baseline player. But if Andy continues to play like this, it’s gonna be a very, very tough match, definitely,” he said.
Murray is looking forward to that match. “I feel good,” he said. “I have played well so far and I feel comfortable.”
He has, though, come to the end of the comfort zone. A stern challenge lies ahead. But so does the enticing prospect of his first Wimbledon final.