In the depths of the capital secluded from sight and the balmy weather, a man stretches in his private chambers ahead of a grand performance. It is a performance he has undertaken many times before in his life, and as the crowd outside throngs and gathers, he touches his toes and completes jumping jacks and if anyone was present to spy on the ageing artiste, no doubt they would say he was remarkably limber.
Then it’s time, and the same man fastens his shoes, and as he rises he scuttles to the door of his chamber. But one step into the hallway and he is all hunched up, limping from the hip, furrowing his brow, and drooping his shoulders.
Believe it or not this isn’t Grand Maester Pycelle from Game of Thrones, but Andy Murray about to take Centre Court at Wimbledon. Take note of the racket and white shorts and cap if you’re struggling otherwise to make sense of the difference. Since his early exit at Queens and pulling out of an exhibition at Hurlingham, a sore hip has purportedly stifled the three-time Grand Slam champion.
As he seeks to retain his Wimbledon crown and secure his throne, the onetime northern invader – now more than a part of polite society’s furniture – has spent his days hobbling about whether between points or practising. But amid the cut and thrust of a tennis match proper, Andy Murray seems more sprightly than ever.
With a steely-eyed mother ever in his corner, he ruthlessly dispatched of Alexander Bublik in the first round, and in the second defeated Dustin Brown in short order. In the third Fabio Fognini, Italian and swarthy, proved a much sterner test, and briefly seemed to have his measure. But Murray prevailed after saving five fourth set points, Wimbledon 2017 remaining his to climb and conquer.
And unlike Pycelle, Murray doesn’t have to worry about treacherous little birds: Rufus the Hawk scares them away from Centre Court’s rafters. As he prepares to face the French Benoît Paire, sore hip or cap hair – what does it matter? Murray’s no fool, he has cunning and craft, and he’ll be swivelling his way at least into the quarters.