Andy Murray and Serena Williams – Murena, Serandy, whatever you want to call the partnership – are a mixed doubles anomaly.
The match-up, a grass-court version of Elvis and whatever the Scottish version of Tom Jones is getting together for a duet, have given welcome prominence to a part of the tournament that is often sidelined or regarded as a bit of a laugh between two professionals looking for extra court time.
It helps of course that one member of Serandy is probably the best known female athlete in the world and the other is a former world No 1 and became the tournament’s first British men’s singles champion for 77 years in 2013.
And it also is a bonus that both players are cold-eyed competitors who would go into a game of Connect Four, let alone a match on Centre Court, with the aim of winning.
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They have obvious chops. And on Tuesday’s evidence, a 7-5, 6-3 win, they are fast building a rapport.
But compared to the crowds which the doubles specialists – like Andy’s brother Jamie – play in front of, the almost-full Centre-Court crowd was definitely not a regular occurrence for a third-round mixed-doubles match.
Indeed, the crowd for Jamie’s match against Bethany Mattek-Sands earlier on Tuesday struggled to break the 700 mark. On Centre there were more watching Murena v Raquel Atawo of the United States and France’s Fabrice Martin than the preceding match, Johanna Konta’s defeat to Barbora Strycova.
And as an aside, yet again, even with a freshly minted steel hip, Andy Murray is the last Brit standing at Wimbledon.
And he sees it as a stepping stone to a return to singles, even if the US Open will most likely come too soon. “I don’t know about that,” he said to a question on whether the Serandy partnership could continue beyond Wimbledon.
“Now that I’m pain-free again, I realise that’s actually the most important thing, is to be healthy, enjoying a kind of normal life, for someone that’s 32.”
But on the prospects of Murray appearing in US Open singles, he added: “The amount of work I need to put in, it’s still quite a ways away unfortunately.”
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Williams, who had already appeared in singles on the same court, having ousted Alison Riske in the quarter-finals, was most definitely the support act for yesterday evening’s entertainment against the tournament’s 14th seeds.
The crowd were here for Murray – and apart from the crowd’s affiliations, Williams was the weak link in the pairing, with her repeated mis-timed volleys into the net.
Still, Williams did provide one of the shots of the match on the point before Murray sealed the victory with an ace. Martin’s return hit the net, Williams fended the ball back with a reactive volley, Martin in turn somehow got it back then his opponent fired it beyond reach. It set up the star of the show for his final flourish perfectly.
As for whether two superstars teaming up in doubles in future is a serious proposition, Williams added: “It is tough with the schedule. Andy and I were looking out for some match play. It is a great thing for the fans and the sport but I think for most of us, we are looking to the best we can in the singles.”
Difference in interest
Read more: Wimbledon seeds 2019: the full list of men’s seedings
The marked difference in interest between singles and doubles was evident earlier on Tuesday at the Aorangi practice courts.
Close to a dozen cameras were aimed at the men’s No 1 seed Novak Djokovic being put through his paces before Wednesday’s quarter-final.
A few courts over, the No 1 seeds for the men’s doubles, Bruno Soares and Mate Pavic, were also working through some moves for their match on Wednesday. They were left alone.
Such is the life of a doubles player – the poor second-best to the glamour-pusses of the singles tour at a Grand Slam.
Before Murena wowed the crowd on Centre Court, big brother Jamie and Mattek-Sands bowed out on the 782-capacity Court 18, completing a three-set, second-round defeat by Pavic and Gabriela Dabrowski that began late on Monday. The stands weren’t even full – even if mum Judy was in attendance.
Jamie – Wimbledon’s mixed doubles runner-up last year with Victoria Azarenka – and Mattek-Sands were in action for a grand total of seven minutes yesterday, broken on the latter’s serve then despatched in the following game for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 defeat.
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And the reigning US Open champions were none too happy about having to return for two games, having begun late in the evening on Monday, even though their court had been available since 5.30pm.
“I am waiting all day to play,” Jamie said. “For me I would rather get on first or second and get on with it. They [organisers] could have been more proactive about it.” They certainly have been with Murena-Serandy-whatever.