They sighed when Andy Murray faulted.
They stood and roared when he hit winners.
And when Murray dropped the first two sets of his Wimbledon quarterfinal Wednesday, the 15,000 Centre Court spectators were suddenly so silent that birds could be heard chirping.
By the time his five-set comeback was nearly complete, more than two hours later, the fans were greeting each point that went Murray’s way with celebrations of the sort reserved for a championship. It’s been 77 years since a British man won the country’s Grand Slam tennis tournament, and thanks to the second-seeded Murray’s 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory over 54th-ranked Fernando Verdasco, the locals still can hold out hope the wait will end Sunday.
First things first, of course. Murray, who is from Scotland, will play in the semifinals at the All England Club for the fifth consecutive year Friday, facing No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland. The other semifinal is No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia against No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
The other quarterfinals lasted three sets each and the most compelling segments came at the very beginning of del Potro’s 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (5) win against No. 4 David Ferrer, and the very end of Janowicz’s 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 victory over 130th-ranked Lukasz Kubot in the first Grand Slam match between two men from Poland.
Janowicz, 22, reached his first major semifinal — the first for a man from his country — by pounding serves at a tournament-high 140 mph, compiling 30 aces, and saving all six break points he faced. When it finished, Kubot walked around the net to Janowicz’s side of the court and the pair of Davis Cup teammates and pals enveloped each other in a warm embrace. Then they yanked their white shirts off and exchanged them, the way soccer players trade jerseys after games.
On the fifth point the 6-foot-6 del Potro played, his left foot slid out from under him as he sprinted to reach a ball. Del Potro’s heavily wrapped left knee, which he hyperextended on a face-first tumble in the third round, slackened, then bent backward.
He fell to the turf and rolled over twice, then stayed down until a trainer came out to check on him and dispense anti-inflammatory medicine.