LONDON -- They say a cat is arguably the most agile creature out there. They can claw their way out of nearly any jam and escape even the most daunting foe with rapid reaction and iron will.
Sounds an awful lot like Andy Murray, doesn't it?
Case in point: At 1-1 in a third-set tiebreaker on Monday, Murray was scrambling side to side, seemingly out of the point. Impossibly, he scooped up a low-hanging ball off the baseline and flicked it for a clean cross-court winner. And then, at 1-2 in the 'breaker, an off-balance Murray short-hopped a ball off the baseline, did a circus-like backward 360 spin, sent the ball back deep into his opponent's court, rushed the net, and stuck a high backhand volley into the open court. And then at 3-4, Murray returned a 115 mph serve into his body and was pulled off the court, yet somehow lunged and smacked another cross-court screamer.
This is what professional tennis players do, but Murray just happens to do it a little better than most, as he showed in a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) win over Kevin Anderson to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
If you're wondering about Murray's form, we can tell you this: The defending champ has played four matches and hasn't lost a set. Oh, and unlike many of his brethren, Murray has deftly dodged all the rain the past few days, which will ensure him a day off in between matches the rest of the way.
The match, which was stopped for 27 minutes in the second set to close the roof, lasted 2 hours, 32 minutes, though it seemed quite a bit shorter than that. Anderson is a tower at 6-foot-8 and serves cannons as consistently as anyone on tour. He ended points quickly with a devastating serve and forehand. Under the 80 million pound dome, Anderson began to find his range. His serves began to penetrate a little more and Murray became visibly more tentative.
"Well, obviously everything was going my way when we stopped, and then, yeah, it's different conditions," Murray said. "I mean, most players will tell you that there's a big difference between playing indoors and outdoors. "It changes the way the court plays.
"I created many chances, gave him a few opportunities. That's what you need to do on grass-court tennis. You don't always break. But if you keep putting them under enough pressure, you're going to get through in the end."
But here's where it gets interesting for Murray. Next up is Grigor Dimitrov, who is turning a few heads right now. And no, we're not talking about his strikingly good looks. The Bulgarian, who on Monday finished off Leonardo Mayer in straight sets, has won a career-best nine straight matches, which includes a title at Queen's Club just before Wimbledon.
Dimitrov, who hired well-respected coach Roger Rasheed last year, has added serious muscle to his game, and it looks like he might finally live up to the expectations he's been burdened with since he appeared on the tennis scene.
"He's a more mature player now, I think," Murray said. "He makes better decisions on the court than he used to. I mean, watching him play, his strokes and stuff, technically he hasn't made many changes to his game. But he's playing higher-percentage tennis, making better decisions. That adds up to winning many more matches.