LONDON (Reuters) - Andy Murray kept his feet while all around him were losing theirs to negotiate his way past a tricky second round opponent as Wimbledon descended into a chaotic flurry of skids, shocks and drop outs on Wednesday.
With champion Roger Federer dethroned, opening up the draw for Britain’s home hope, and seven players withdrawing or retiring injured, Murray’s 6-3 6-3 7-5 win over Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun was notable for its largely predictable outcome.
As shockwaves ripped through the All England Club with players claiming that underfoot conditions had rendered the lush green courts almost treacherous, Murray stayed upright and eased past an opponent who had previously given him trouble.
Early in the second set, the Court One scoreboard flashed the news that Murray’s potential quarter-final opponent Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had withdrawn injured from his second round clash against Ernests Gulbis.
By the time the Scot had finished his post-match media commitments, he discovered that Federer, in line to face him in the last four, had also fallen against world number 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky, leaving Murray a fairly clear route to the final.
Yet with Rafa Nadal the first of the game’s traditional big four to exit the tournament in the first round against little-known Belgian Steve Darcis on Monday, Murray was sticking rigidly to the one-match-at-a-time script.
“Everybody was so obsessed with how the draw was before the tournament started,” Murray told reporters. “Now everybody wants to change their views on it because a few guys have lost.
“There’s top players still left in the tournament, and there’s a lot of young guys as well coming through. Those sort of players are starting to break through and play more consistently.
“I’ll just concentrate on my next match.”
There was little chance that Murray would take the 75th-ranked Lu for granted.
The Taiwanese dumped the number two seed out of the Beijing Olympics in a chastening defeat five years ago and had beaten Andy Roddick at Wimbledon in 2010 when the American remained a significant scalp.
Then he regaled journalists with tales about chasing chickens around his father’s farm, a practice that would have stood him in good stead for all the scuttling and scurrying he had to do around Court One as Murray turned the screw.
For the first handful of games it looked like he might be in for a testing afternoon.
Any realistic potential for an upset, however, was quashed, when Murray broke in the sixth game of the first set. He then broke twice more in the second and came out on top in a nip and tuck third.
Among the other players whose Wimbledon campaigns came to an end on Wednesday were the second and third women’s seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.
The Belarussian had bowed out before a ball was hit following a nasty fall in her first-round match while the 2004 champion complained that she could not keep her feet on the slippery turf.
With a deft riposte to those who sought to use the courts as an excuse for failure, Murray countered: “It didn’t feel different to previous years.”
In the early stages of his match, however, there was a sense that perhaps the U.S. Open champion was not chasing down lost causes with his usual gusto.
“If there’s a lot of people getting injured... you’re going to be a little bit tentative out on the court. Maybe that’s what it was just at the beginning,” Murray explained.
He will now face Spain’s Tommy Robredo, who has never been past the third round at Wimbledon but has clawed his way up from an injury-induced ranking of 471 in 2012 to 29 today.
“As soon as he got himself fit and healthy again, he was going to win matches on the challenger tour, for sure,” Murray said. “I mean, at his age, it’s obviously a good effort to come back from a tough injury. But he’s a top player.”
Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ken Ferris