Reginald Brace: Murray’s meticulous displays stating case for the defence

Opening week at Wimbledon.
Opening week at Wimbledon.
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Halfway through my 55th Wimbledon, your venerable correspondent is faced with the annual task of capturing the flavour of a smouldering first week which burst into flame on Saturday with the defeat of Serena Williams.

Goodbye was bade to familiar figures like Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils, and there was an early departure by China’s No 2 seed Li Na.

Rafael Nadal banished his conqueror of two years ago, Lukas Rosol, and is a battling survivor on an alien surface.

Roger Federer is still there, elegant as ever; and Novak Djokovic remains a steely presence at the top of the draw. But the end of Serena was a huge blip on Wimbledon’s radar.

The No 1 seed was banished 1-6 6-3 6-4 by Alize Cornet, of France, and there could be no disputing the quality of a convincing victory based on shrewd tactics, notably the drop shots which often left Williams floundering.

Alize wins the accolade for performance of the opening week; now for the culmination of the tournament. Which brings us to Andy Murray, whose form so far has been exemplary.

The defending champion has not dropped a set, and his defeat of Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round came close to perfection.

Meticulous, beautifully sculpted rallies rippling with tactical awareness dispelled fears that Murray was suffering a reaction to last year’s triumph and a subsequent back operation.

More searching tests lie ahead, of course, notably his next opponent, the South African Kevin Anderson.

But the prospects are good for the man who picked up Fred Perry’s mantle after an interval of 77 years.

Yorkshire’s contribution was fleeting. Kyle Edmund, from Beverley, of whom great things are expected by the Lawn Tennis Association, was beaten 6-3 7-6 6-2 by Austria’s Andreas Haider-Maurer in the first round.

The Yorkshireman is a ferocious, indeed fearless striker of the ball.

But so was his opponent, who had the extra dimension of more variety and consistency.

Edmund, who is coached by former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski, now retreats to the relative anonymity of futures and challenger events in search of the points which will improve his world ranking of 320.

At 19, he needs to be improving his standing in the game.

Converting talent into results is the next challenge facing Edmund and the LTA.

Tara Moore, 21, whose Yorkshire base is Doncaster, was another first-round casualty after a valiant fight against the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up and former world No 2, Vera Zvonareva.

Injuries have led to the Russian plummeting to 566 in the world, but she remains a resolute competitor who was relieved to come through 6-4 6-7 9-7 after the battling Moore served for victory twice. A feisty performance, this, from Tara, – another Yorkshire player whose best years, like Edmund, are arguably yet to come.

Work in progress is the verdict on both Yorkshire players – and the same might be said of my old pal Roger Taylor, three times a Wimbledon semi-finalist and former Davis Cup stalwart.

Roger, a hale and hearty 73, has recovered from two hip operations and, after his left shoulder began giving him trouble, is now serving right handed. Still playing – and still enjoying it.

Therein lies a message for all ageing tennis players.