|Wimbledon on the BBC|
|Venue: All England Club Dates: 27 June – 10 July|
|Live: Coverage across BBC TV, BBC Radio and BBC Sport website with further coverage on Red Button, Connected TVs and app. Click for more details|
There might be an especially warm handshake at the net from Andy Murray for his second-round opponent at Wimbledon on Thursday.
The name Yen-Hsun Lu may not mean much to you, but without knowing it, the man from Chinese Taipei helped turn the Scot into an Olympic and Grand Slam champion.
And it all came from one of Murray’s most painful defeats.
He headed over to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 bright-eyed, bushy tailed and happy to be a part of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ – only for Lu to dash his dreams in round one with a straight-sets defeat.
It made Murray rethink and reassess what he was doing, on court and off, and started him off on a journey that would end with glorious gold in London four years later.
“Obviously in Beijing I lost to him in the first round, which was really tough,” Murray told BBC Scotland.
“I learnt a lot from that loss. I certainly became a lot more professional afterwards. I was so pumped to be at the Olympics, I got caught up in everything else and sort of forgot that I was there to win tennis matches.”
London 2012 redemption
Stung by that experience, Murray made sure it would never happen again. His next tournament was the US Open, at which he made his maiden Grand Slam final, losing to Roger Federer.
The British number one then changed the way he prepared for major tournaments, developed a strong team around him to offer expertise in all the right areas and, eventually aided and abetted by Ivan Lendl, was a much-improved player by the time London 2012 came along.
“I was glad in London I managed to perform much better in the Olympics that time around.”
That is an understatement. Novak Djokovic was beaten in straight sets in the semi-final, then Federer in straight sets in the final. And Murray had a gold medal hanging proudly around his neck, the first of three major prizes he picked up in the subsequent 12 months.
Those US Open and Wimbledon triumphs can be traced back to the pain of that Beijing defeat by Lu.
“He’s a very, very good player,” Murray said of his opponent, who is ranked 76 in the world rankings.
“He’s been around the top of the game for a long time. He’s very experienced, he’s made the quarters here before and beat [Andy] Roddick. He’s on an 11-match winning streak on grass. He won the two Challengers in the build-up to Wimbledon and a final of the one before that, so he likes the grass. He’s a tough opponent.”
The same could be said of the Scot, of course, especially at his ‘home’ Grand Slam at the All England Club, where he has produced some of his very best tennis.
“As you start to go through the tournament you start to think about the times when you’ve got to the finals or won the tournament. The Olympics sometimes as well. But at the beginning of the event I’m always excited to get going, I’m always a bit nervous.
“It’s always difficult going back on to Centre Court because there’s a bit of extra pressure, but I still get very excited to get back out on that court every year. The goal is just to try to settle down quickly.”
‘Lendl can help me topple Djokovic’
He certainly did that against Liam Broady with a straight-sets win, and the second seed can now relax into the rest of the tournament. Much of the talk in the media has been centred on whether Murray can stop the defending champion Djokovic – currently the holder of all four of tennis’ Grand Slam titles – and, indeed, whether there is a real gap now between the world’s top two players and the rest.
Murray feels his reunion with coach Lendl can only help his cause as he tries to find his feet again on the Wimbledon grass over the next fortnight.
“I do think this year Novak’s obviously been the best player by a long distance. I’m trying to catch up and hopefully I can start that here. With Ivan back in my corner I think he can give me help in a number of areas, but change takes a bit of time.”
Hopefully, not too much time. If you believe in omens, it will not have escaped your attention that Lendl was Murray’s coach when he won Wimbledon in the summer sunshine of 2013.
But can you remember who he played in the second round that year, on his way to victory? A little known player from Chinese Taipei called Yen-Hsun Lu.