Wimbledon 2017: Testing times for Murray as bid to be king of Centre Court again hots up

Anxious Andy Murray faces an acid test to find out whether his injured hip will carry him through the second week of Wimbledon as he looks to continue a two-and-a-half year unbeaten record against French players today.

SHOWTIME: Andy Murray speaks with his coach Ivan Lendl during a training session on Sunday at Wimbledon. Picture: Steven Paston/PA

The defending champion has had two days to rest the injury which restricted his movement during Friday’s unconvincing win over Italian Fabio Fognini.

Murray admitted the injury had played on his mind during the scare on Centre Court where he eventually came through in four sets 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

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And the 30-year-old was seen hobbling on the practice court ahead of today’s match against world No 46 Benoit Paire.

Andy Murray celebrates beating Fabio Fognini in the third round of the men's singles at Wimbledon. Picture: John Walton/PA

To add to Murray’s woes, the worn courts at Wimbledon continue to polarise opinion among the players.

Following searing heat in the first week of the championships, grass is already thin on the ground on the show courts with seven days of play to go at SW19.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic both hit the deck during their respective straight sets win over Mischa Zverev and Ernests Gulbis on Saturday.

American doubles specialist Bethany Mattek-Sands revealed she faces months on the sidelines after dislocating her knee and rupturing a ligament in the second round on Wednesday.

Andy Murray celebrates beating Fabio Fognini in the third round of the men's singles at Wimbledon. Picture: John Walton/PA

Murray said: “I don’t think the court is in as good of condition as previous years. There’s quite a few spots on the court where there’s quite big lumps of grass, almost like little divots.

“I don’t know if it’s down to the weather. It’s been pretty hot, extreme conditions.

“I think it’s just getting beaten up.”

The match-up against Paire will be Murray’s 110th match against French opposition in his career and he has come out on the winning side a remarkable 94 times.

The Scot has won his last 25 meetings against French players, with his last defeat in February 2015 against Gilles Simon.

He won the pair’s only encounter on the clay of Monte Carlo last year however Paire gave him a scare by winning the first set 6-2.

Murray added: “He has a very different game to a lot of the guys now.

“He has very good hands, moved well, takes a lot of chances and goes for his shots.

“He can be quite up and down but he seems to have played pretty well at this event.”

For a first time, Johanna Konta will join Murray in today’s hectic schedule – where every player in the men’s and women’s draws will be in action.

Konta, seeded sixth, also meets French opposition in the guise of in-form 21st seed Caroline Garcia.

Garcia has been impressive on the outside courts in the first three rounds and has yet to drop a set at the championships.

The 23-year-old took the spoils in her last meeting against the British No. 1 following a tense three-set tussle at Indian Wells earlier this year and carries her form into the French Open, reaching the quarters as Konta bowed out in the first round.

On Garcia, who Murray once tipped as a future world No. 1, Konta added: “She’s a good player, playing with a lot of confidence right now. It’s going to be a tough battle for me.”

The winner will play either second seed Simona Halep or two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka, who knocked out Britain’s Heather Watson in round three.

Second seed Djokovic overcame a rusty beginning against the unpredictable Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 on Saturday to set up a fourth-round encounter against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Gulbis, son of a Latvian billionaire, broke Djokovic’s serve early but went on to produce an erratic display, losing the first set in a run of nine straight games against him.

Djokovic, who is working with Mario Ancic and Andre Agassi together for a first time at Wimbledon, joined the list of players critical of the courts at SW19.

He said: It was a bit softer, especially around the baseline area.

“I haven’t had that kind of experience before in Wimbledon.

“The more you play on it, the worse it is.

“You don’t have as much grass already now end of the first week.”

Seven-time champion Federer reached the fourth round stage for a 15th time in his career with a gritty win over Zverev, who beat Andy Murray at the Australian Open earlier this year.

Federer lacked his usual fluidity against the serve-volleying German but overcame the challenge 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 to set up a fourth round clash against Grigor Dimitrov.

Dimitrov has long been compared to Federer with their similar style of play, including effective one-handed back-hands.

However, the Bulgarian has yet to win in five encounters against the game’s most successful player.

“He’s a good shot-maker,” Federer said.

“He’s in the prime of his career you would think right now. I expect that every time I have played him he has become better.

On his fall, the 35-year-old added: “I did not feel that it was unsafe.

“Maybe you don’t want players to feel that way, because the moment you become scared of moving properly, it’s really difficult to play.

“The last thing we want to see is horrible injuries.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what they’re going to do with the courts.”

With Rafael Nadal due to face big-server Gilles Muller, this year’s championship will see the ‘fab four’ on the men’s side all in the second week for the first time since 2011.

For the first time in the Open era, seven of the last 16 men are over 30 years old.

Federer added: “It’s nice to see them still hanging on, still enjoying the tour, still being tough out there and making it difficult for the youngsters to come and break through.”