LONDON Andy Murray suffered a mini crisis of confidence and faced his first tiebreak of the tournament but recovered his nerve and timing to beat Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 7-6(5) 6-1 on Monday and take his regular berth in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
With Laura Robson bowing out earlier in the day, number two seed Murray assumed his usual position as singles flag-bearer for the home country and he duly triumphed on a sun-drenched Center Court against the 31-year-old making his 13th Wimbledon appearance.
Murray was untroubled in the first set but experienced the full range of emotions in a topsy-turvy second that featured two breaks of serve each. Youzhny had the early advantage in the tiebreak too but Murray produced some stunning shots to turn it round and sap the Russian's spirit.
"Once I got ahead in the third set I concentrated very hard to make sure he didn't get back in like he did in the second," Murray said after reaching his sixth successive Wimbledon quarter-final.
There he will face Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who he has beaten eight times in nine meetings, but said he was not taking it for granted that he would march routinely on for his scheduled final showdown with top seed Novak Djokovic.
"I don't come in here and expect to win them, there are no guarantees," he said. "I've only won one (grand slam) and it gets harder the longer it goes on.
"Today there were some tight moments but I felt a bit calmer before the match. I just concentrate on each match. Serena Williams lost today, Rafa and Roger lost, they are better players than me and if they can lose then so can I."
While Murray's serve was at its relentless best from the start, Youzhny's, perhaps limited by a shoulder injury that needed lengthy courtside treatment later in the match, failed to trouble the Scot, who got just about everything back as he took the first set comfortably.
There is considerably more to Murray than his serve, however, and he showed the full range of his talents to break again in the third game of the second set.
A delicate drop shot, a backhand top-spin lob right on to the base line and an athletic running forehand whipped across court and under the nose of his stunned opponent had the crowd on their feet roaring.
Ten minutes later, however, it was Murray looking stunned as he contemplated how he had had his previously unthreatened serve broken twice in a row.
Youzhny seemed to find some belief and aggression while Murray faltered. Visibly annoyed, rapping his racket against his shoe and then the floor, Murray handed the Russian his second break with a tame double fault.
Just as he looked poised to drop his first set of the tournament, however, Murray hit back. A terrific scramble to reach a drop shot got him going and a flashing backhand leveled things up.
This time it was Murray pumped up, gesturing to the Center Court crowd, drowsy in the unaccustomed sunshine, to make some noise.
Although Youzhny grabbed an early mini-break, Murray maintained his concentration to turn it round and when he secured the tiebreak with a superb backhand return and released a guttural roar, Youzhny knew the game was up.
Murray duly sped through the third set in a mere 37 minutes and immediately turned his attention to Verdasco.
"He has played very well this tournament and had some good wins against some solid players," he said.
"He's a very talented player and he's a lefty and I have not played a left all year so I will have to get practicing returning some lefty serves."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)