The Scot slipped to the Centre Court turf no fewer than four times, and had to endure a fairly significant wardrobe malfunction, before beating both Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus and the clock to book his place in the second week of Wimbledon. The 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 scoreline was concluded at precisely 11.02pm under the roof at SW19, making it not only the latest finish ever to a match at Wimbledon, but so late in fact it was two minutes beyond the deadline which the local council insists that play is meant to finish at the All England club. Getting the job done last night was of paramount importance to the Scot, as it means he will face Marin Cilic, of Croatia, in the quarter final on Monday, rather than being forced to resume on Monday, causing a knock-on effect which would have seen him play three matches in three days. Whatever happens, the roof won't come into play in that match, as it has been scheduled second on Court No 1.
Typically, the Scot was aware enough of the time constraints not to sit down at the final change of ends, and ask umpire Steve Ullrich if he had been granted an extension long enough to serve for the match. But he had feared he might be coming back on Monday to play one game. "They had it on the screen, which said even if the match hasn't finished we can't play beyond 11," he said. "So I was under the impression that 11:00pm we were stopping regardless of what the score was. I think I actually broke serve to go 5-1 at that time, and then walked to the net because I thought we were going to have to come back on Monday. I asked if we got one more game and he said yes. I don't know what the rules are, maybe this is the first time that is happened here. Perhaps they will get a fine. But I am glad they let me play for a little bit longer. "I think common sense prevailed, because with the roof there's always going to be, you know, some difficult situations for the tournament director or the referee. Today was a perfect example."
Considering everything he went through yesterday, and the travails of Rafael Nadal against Lukas Rosol in midweek, Murray will simply be glad to get into the last 16 without any more slip-ups. He lost his footing on the lush grass of Centre Court no fewer than four times, sustaining a knee injury severe enough to require strapping, and found the additional tennis balls he took for service escaping from his pocket at the most inopportune moments during play.
"My knee was a little bit sore," he said afterwards. "I took a tumble towards the end of the second set. My left leg kind of went from under me. I had the physio do some work on it, and put some tape on it. But it is nothing I'm too worried about. I've obviously a few bumps and bruises. I fell quite a lot more than I normally do on the grass. I changed shoes. I put a new pair of shoes on when the break came with the roof and moved better after that.
"It [the malfunction with the shorts] has happened before, but it happened five times today and I felt like it was always about to happen," he added. "When I took the break I asked about it, and started serving with one ball, and not having one in my pocket. It lost me two points better make sure it doesn't happen in next round. I blame the shorts, it wasn't my fault."
On the same night he got the benefit of the doubt from the local council, it was appropriate that his mum Judy should jump from royal box to players box last night as she watched the boy that would be King book his place in the second week of Wimbledon. The Great Britain Fed Cup captain, along with her mother Shirley Erskine, and Andy's first coach Leon Smith, had given the most famous seats in world sport a distinctly Scottish flavour but she was back in the cheap seats to witness her son complete this famous victory.
"I saw my mum beforehand," the Scot said. "I don't normally see her at the tracks, so I think she was a little bit nervous about the outfit. But, yeah, I think they really, really enjoyed it."
This, of course, is the last thing you need when you are facing a player who has a Grand Slam final appearance on his resume, such as Baghdatis' 2006 Australian Open defeat to Roger Federer. Baghdatis may only have been the world 42 yesterday, but he had previously been as high as eight in the world, and the six previous meetings had been shared out equally, with the Cypriot winning the only previous encounter on grass, on his run to the semi-finals here in the same year. Like Rafael Nadal's defeat to Lukas Rosol earlier in the week, which has spread a sense of anarchy throughout the main draw, the match incorporated a 45-minute delay as the roof slid into place. Unlike Nadal, the Scot lives on in the competition to tell the tale.
The two combatants went back to the junior ranks together and both camps know each other very well - Baghdatis employs Murray's former coach Miles MacLagan, and he and Lendl are regular competitors on the golf course. So perhaps it was inevitable that the first set should be tentative, with both players feeling each other out a little bit. The first deuce didn't arrive until the eighth game of the match, the first break points until the 11th game, but the rallies were frequently epic affairs, lasting 20 strokes or more. From one such exchange, an ambitious Baghdatis cross-court shot from mid-court landed in the tramlines and Murray finally had his breakthrough. His first ace of the contest, wide to the Baghdatis forehand, gave him the opening set.
If the first set was cagey, the remainder of the match would be the opposite extreme, as fortunes ebbed and flowed. Murray's momentum carried into the opening stages, the Scot converting the third of three more break points for a 2-1 lead. But it was then that events really started to conspire against the 25-year-old. Not only did he slip to the ground for a second time, but on break point down, a ball came out of his pocket in mid-point, forcing umpire Steve Ullrich to play a let. The Scot won the replayed point but the respite didn't do the Scot too much good, and before long he was double faulting to surrender his serve.
A chaotic set resumed with Murray spurning six more break points in the very next game, and Baghdatis claiming his only one for a 2-4 lead. Forced to serve the set, the Scot forced him to deuce, but a weak forehand gave him the set 6-3. The referee decided there and then that it was time for the roof.
The Scot seemed determined to recapture the momentum, pumping his fist at the crowd as he made inroads into the first two Baghdatis serve games. But he couldn't capitalise on either, and instead it was left to Baghdatis to make his chance count with a terrific backhand down the line. The Scot's followers feared the worst, but Murray hung in there and kept his opponent honest. His strategy of forcing Baghdatis to try outrageous shots at every opportunity came to fruition when the Cypriot clipped a tame drop shot into the net for the Scot to restore parity.
After a couple of nervy service holds, the next Murray service game was enlivened by another errant tennis ball going missing mid-point from Murray's shorts. The umpire awarded the point to Baghdatis, a comfortable game is suddenly rendered stressful, and the Scot has to summon up all his courage to hold. It was a crucial moment, because by the time the next game came around it was Baghdatis' turn to sprawl across the turf. The break and the set was concluded by an imperious backhand pass down the line.
An early break in the fourth set broke the Cypriot's resistance for good, leaving his best hope to play for time. But sportingly, he resisted the temptation to call the trainer and Murray fairly rattled through the set, with a little help from referee Andrew Jarrett.
Cilic's progress to the fourth round was hardly uneventful either. The Croat came through the second-longest match in Wimbledon history against America's Sam Querrey, taking a fifth set which briefly threatened to go to John Isner-Nicolas Mahut proportions by a 17-15 scoreline. Although Murray has had the upper hand in the pair's previous meetings, the 23-year-old inflicted a particular damaging US Open defeat in 2009 and is certainly in good form, having won at Queen's club a fortnight ago, after David Nalbandian was defaulted for kicking a sponsors' board which struck a line judge. "I know how much it definitely means to him, but also means a lot to me," Cilic said. "I have to go into the match with positive thinking. You can't really go in the match thinking something negative."