Even casual observers could not fail to note a faintly Samson-ish air to Andy Murray as he grimaced his way to the Wimbledon quarter-finals behind a 10-day growth of beard. “It’s just laziness,” insisted the British No 1, explaining his decision not to shave. Tournament folklore however, suggests otherwise.
Superstitions abound in the closing week of Wimbledon. Novak Djokovic, for instance, refuses to use the same shower twice in a row.
Reigning champion Rafael Nadal insists on lining his water bottles up in a row, so that all the labels are pointing in exactly the same direction. All of which is nothing new.
To scroll back through the list of tennis legends is to uncover a nail-biting array of rituals and habits run worryingly out of control. What was one to make of Ivan Lendl, who would arrive at Wimbledon from the courts of Roland Garros still tapping non-existent clay from the tread of his trainers? Or Justine Henin, who avoided stepping on the lines when arriving on court? Serena Williams tends to play all Grand Slam events in the same pair of socks, while 2001 champion Goran Ivanisevic wouldn’t get out of bed until he’d watched an episode of Teletubbies.
Russian giant Marat Safin wore an “evil eye” pendant to ward off wicked spirits. However, the most bizarre of these anecdotes comes from Andre Agassi, who partially credited his victory in the 1999 French Open to his decision to play every match without his underpants. Thereafter, he claims, he never played in pants again.