WIMBLEDON, England - The lofty expectations placed on Great British Hope Andy Murray every year at Wimbledon ramped up several notches following Rafael Nadal's surprising exit.
So far, Murray is coping pretty well.
Even when dealing with a rare venture away from Centre Court, the fourth-seeded Murray easily dispatched Marin Cilic between rain showers in the round of 16 on Tuesday, showing no sign of the increased pressure he has been under since Nadal opened up the bottom half of the draw by losing to the unheralded Lukas Rosol in the second round on Thursday.
Murray was given a standing ovation by a jubilant Court One crowd after his 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Cilic, who won the grass-court Queen's Club title in the run-up to Wimbledon.
Murray is now just two wins away from becoming the first British man to reach the final at the All England Club since Bunny Austin in 1938. Next up is a quarterfinal match against seventh-seeded David Ferrer, who reached Wimbledon's last eight for the first time with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.
Given the domestic hype surrounding Murray, it promises to be the standout match of the four all-European quarterfinals Wednesday.
Also on a rain-affected Tuesday, Florian Mayer of Germany beat Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 to set up a match against top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who routed fellow Serb Viktor Troicki in straight sets on Monday.
Germany will have two players in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1997 after Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Brian Baker 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-3, ending the American's remarkable run at his first Wimbledon. Kohlschreiber will play fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who defeated Mardy Fish 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-4, while the other quarterfinal will be No. 3-ranked Roger Federer against Mikhail Youzhny — who both had time to complete their wins Monday before rain stopped play in the other five fourth-round matches.
For Murray, there was none of the drama that accompanied his beat-the-clock win over Marcos Baghdatis in the third round, a match that finished under a closed roof on Centre Court at 11.02 p.m. on Saturday — two minutes after the official deadline for play being suspended. No balls spilled out from his pocket onto the court, either.
This time, shunted out to a roofless Court One, Murray's only issue was keeping a calm head during the rain delays.
"In matches, you can build momentum and build leads, and then when you stop, once you come back out again, you feel like you're starting off from square one," Murray said. "There were, what, three or four stops? It's not easy."
Resuming at 40-0 up at 3-1 in the second set, Murray pushed ahead 4-2 before play was stopped because of rain. There was also a four-minute break early in the third set while light showers subsided. In between delays, Murray varied his play well and used his dominant serve to great effect, hitting 16 aces and winning 71 per cent of points on his pinpoint second serve.
"If I serve like I did at the end of the second set and the third set today, it doesn't matter how well someone's returning," Murray said, in a warning to Ferrer.
When the 16th-ranked Cilic slammed a backhand into the net on the first match point, Murray raised his fingers and head to an overcast sky, in what is becoming his trademark celebration. He's not getting carried away by the so-called "Murray Mania", though, despite being one step closer to becoming the first British winner of the men's singles here since Fred Perry in 1936.
"I've thought about (winning Wimbledon) in the past but during this tournament it's not something I've been thinking about," said Murray, who reached for the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the fifth straight year. He lost in the semifinals in the last three.
Ferrer usually reserves his best performances for the clay courts but considering the way he dealt with Del Potro, he appears to be increasingly home on grass. The last Spaniard left in singles, he made only eight unforced errors and never lost his serve under the Centre Court's retractable roof.
Ferrer beat Murray in four sets in the French Open quarterfinals last month.
"It's ... very difficult to beat Andy on all surfaces but on grass court it's more difficult," said Ferrer, who beat Andy Roddick in the third round. "He's the favourite because he's better than me ... I will have to play my best tennis to beat him."
Fish resumed a set ahead against Tsonga, a semifinalist here last year, but was hampered Tuesday by back and hip problems.
"My body doesn't turn up as good if you stop and start like that," said Fish, who was playing in his first tournament since having a procedure on his heart in late May.
Tsonga also struggled with a back problem, causing the Frenchman to leave the court briefly for treatment after winning the second-set tiebreaker. But he returned to break Fish in the very next game and served out the match with an ace.
Baker was trying to become the third American qualifier to reach the quarterfinals at the All England Club but he didn't manage to break Kohlschreiber once.
"It's been an unbelievable run," said Baker, who was ranked 458th at the start of 2012 but now will rise inside the top 80. "Can't be too upset about that."