WIMBLEDON, England — Andy Murray didn’t lose a set in the first four rounds, playing up to his No. 2 seeding and the legacy of Fred Perry, the last British man to win the Wimbledon men’s singles title. But as the light faded on Center Court on Wednesday and a nation’s sports fans held their collective breath, Murray found himself fighting to stay in the tournament.
Beset by a barrage of strong serves and aggressive play by unseeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, Murray lost the first two sets before a fretful crowd. Verdasco, a left-hander ranked 54th in the world, never let Murray establish a comfortable rhythm.
“It was a tough situation,” Murray said. “The second set was a bad set of tennis for me. I was up 3-1 and then made some bad mistakes, poor choices on the court.”
Murray lost that set but retrenched in the third after resolving to be more patient. “I just managed to turn it ’round,” he said, the understatement of the fortnight after a 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 comeback launched him into the semifinals Friday.
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He will face No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, who became that country’s first Grand Slam men’s semifinalist by defeating compatriot Lukasz Kubot 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
“Right now, I’m the most happy person in the world,” said Janowicz, who cried and embraced Kubot at the net before exchanging shirts with him.
There was little drama in top-seeded Novak Djokovic’s 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, which sent the supple Serb to his 13th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearance. The other quarterfinal produced the tournament’s daily upset as Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina earned his first Wimbledon semifinal berth and a matchup against Djokovic, whom he defeated in the bronze-medal match a year ago at the London Olympics.
Del Potro, the No. 8 seed, won two service breaks in the first set and pounded out an emotional 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) victory over No. 4 David Ferrer of Spain.
Murray has now won 16 straight matches on grass.
“Great atmosphere at the end of the match. … I love it when it’s like that. It was extremely noisy,” said Murray, who lost last year’s Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. “They were right into it, pretty much every single point.”
Only 26, Murray truly has matured as a player over the past 12 months. After shedding tears following the 2012 Wimbledon final, Murray returned to the same spot four weeks later and beat Federer to win a gold medal at the London Olympics. Then, at the U.S. Open in September, he defeated Djokovic to win his first Grand Slam title.
Asked if his triumph in Flushing Meadows lessened the pressure to succeed at home, Murray said: “It’s pretty much the same. Not a whole lot’s changed.”