LONDON -- When a 19-stroke exchange ended with Andy Murray's Wimbledon opponent slapping a forehand into the net, thousands of Centre Court spectators rose in unison.
They applauded Murray's first service break. They screamed for joy. They waved their Union Jacks and Scottish flags. It was only a third-round match, merely 12 minutes and three games old, yet to some that tiny early edge seemed massively meaningful.
So imagine the reaction, louder and livelier, when the second-seeded Murray finished off his 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 victory over 32nd-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain less than two hours later Friday to advance to Week 2. And then, for a moment, try to fathom what would happen if Murray ever were to win the final point of The Championships, as the Grand Slam tournament is known around here, and become the first British man in 77 years to hoist the trophy.
"You need to be professional enough to not let that stuff bother you and just concentrate on each match," said Murray, who has won 20 of his past 21 contests on grass, including runs to last year's final at the All England Club and a London Olympics gold medal.
The locals' hopes that Murray will follow up his 2012 U.S. Open victory with another major title, this time at Wimbledon, only increased in the aftermath of surprisingly early losses this week by seven-time champion Roger Federer, two-time winner Rafael Nadal and two-time semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
All were seeded in the top six, and all were on Murray's half of the draw. Their departures mean the most daunting obstacle in Murray's path -- until a potential final against No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, anyway -- might very well be surging expectations.
-- The Associated Press