We thought this incarnation of our leading tennis player had taken a break, given how much focus and efficiency Murray has shown since Ivan Lendl rejoined his camp. But an apparently unthreatening opponent named Paolo Lorenzi reduced Murray to almost speechless frustration for much of this third-round match.
He looked like he wanted to set fire to the net or dig a hole in the court — anything rather than slog through the extra miles that Lorenzi was forcing him to run. Lorenzi had claimed only two grand-slam wins before this tournament, in 23 attempts, and had also gone through a 4hr 54min epic against Gilles Simon in the previous round.
He will be 35 in December.
Yet he simply refused to miss, hurling himself into each shot with a loud grunt and an explosion of topspin that gave him a gigantic error margin. Playing Simon would have been an ordeal in its own right, for the Frenchman loves a marathon.
But Lorenzi was as tough as they come. He showed unlimited doggedness and extraordinary grit, making a mockery of a career that has largely been spent on the Challenger circuit, and clearly enjoying his moment on the big stage.
It was a hugely patient performance, in which he was prepared to cut down his risk factor and just make Murray work. The scorers credited him with only four forehand winners in the match. He might even have preferred the overhead din, caused by a burst of monsoon-like rain, which had become such a talking point of his previous match against Marcel Granollers.
He came back from a break down to win the first set on a tie-break, and from to level the second, only to waste all that effort when he promptly dropped his serve again.
It was one set all, and the match clock already read 1hr 55min.
Murray could have easily freaked out at this point. In fact, though, there was a sense that he relaxed. I was going for too much. When I actually slowed things down and waited for the right shot to go for, my unforced errors went down and my winners went up and the scoreboard starting working in my favour as well.
Indeed, his control of the ball went from diabolical to delightful, with winners flowing off his racket in all directions.
His , , , win occupied 3hr 17min, and he will need to rest up today in preparation for a tricky fourth-round encounter with Grigor Dimitrov — the man who ended his Wimbledon title defence at the quarter-final stage in The pair embrace at the end of the match Credit: Getty Images One happy note, though, is that Murray has company in the last 16 of a grand slam for the first time in his career.
They watch each other — Kyle went out to support Evo [Dan Evans] in his first round against Rajeev Ram — and genuinely want each other to do well. How different this one turned out to be. But the Italian hustled and bustled and was simply awesome in defence the whole match long, and more than deserved that second set.
A brilliant game.