For someone who numbers the Invisible Man among his favourite superheroes, Andy Murray will be hard to miss. If he beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-finals and goes on to take the Wimbledon title, he will be condemned to a life of scrutiny even more relentless than it has been since he emerged from Dunblane as the hailed saviour of British tennis.
Given the overload of interest in him, especially here, especially in this era of superhero tennis, Murray remains sanguine about the process, determined to ignore the worst excesses of media interest but happy to accommodate all reasonable inquiries. He is unfailingly polite – even when asked for the umpteenth time about his post-match gesture of pointing to the skies in some apparent plea for divine intervention. All we know is he is not asking for help for himself; he is among the most self-sufficient of athletes.
Would he ever reveal what it is about?
"Don't worry, I won't tell you."
He was more than happy, though, to talk on the eve of his fourth consecutive semi-final here, his 10th in grand slams overall, about all the many other pressures bearing down on him.
Was he inspired by Wimbledon, or stressed by it?
"When you get out on the court, that is where you get all the benefits. That is where the positives of home support come in. The buildup is hard and all the other things that go with it make it tough but, when you are on the court, that is where you see all the positives. I have played well."
He loves to talk about his tennis, possibly because it deflects inspection of his private life, and one noticeable factor in his impressive grind through the draw has been his serve, especially if the first one does not find the mark. He leads those left in with 130 points from 198 second serves, a hurtful 66 per cent, and the author of the improvement is his coach Ivan Lendl.
"Ironically, I hit a lot less serves than I used to [in practice]. Ivan is more of the opinion that you need to rest your shoulder and make sure it is loose, not tired, when you go out on to the court and into big tournaments because, over the course of two weeks, you hit thousands of serves. That may be a reason why I am serving well deeper into the tournament. He has worked a lot on my second serve too since the start of the year. It was not always about the pace of the serve [against David Ferrer]. I was getting a lot of kick on it and making him hit a lot of very high returns. He struggled a lot with [it]."
Lendl works on his mind as well as his body, and that too is paying dividends.
"We speak about different things than I was used to. He is a different coach, a different person. [We] still speak 30-40 minutes before a match and get a lot of information, tactics. He doesn't miss anything. He gives you a lot of information on players, so I have started to talk the night before matches so I can process it. That's really been the big difference. He is making sure I am focusing on the match the night before, so I can sleep on it and make sure I am prepared rather than not thinking about the match at all and maybe starting off a little bit slow."
The image of Old Stone Face telling Murray a nightly bedtime story is of a piece with their plainly close relationship. They speak the same language of mild sarcasm, from the history of the game to the minutae of racket strings and court speed.
And, given the weight of history, did he ever snatch a glance at the statue of Fred Perry on his way to the locker room?
"Not really. When I think about Wimbledon and how long it has been since a British winner it is obviously surprising, a bit shocking too. When I sit out there on the court by myself, I am thinking about the history and the matches I have played there so that I understand how important it is. I know that when I come here I do not want to waste the chance by playing a stupid match or not acting right or not preparing properly. I do all of that to try to benefit myself. I haven't looked at the statue or thought too much of Fred Perry. If I did, it might not be beneficial, especially at this stage of the tournament."
Murray has been here before, of course, memorably losing to Andy Roddick in 2009 when the American still had a lot of zip in his tennis.
"I remember it being a close match. He served incredibly well and I didn't take my chances. He went on to play one of the best finals ever [losing to Roger Federer]. That has maybe been my toughest loss so far in a slam. I definitely will have learned from it."
After all the ups and downs of the season, his back injury, his alleged on-court sulking, the criticism, did he feel he was in a good place?
"You always feel like that deep into a tournament, unless you have had a five- or six-hour marathon. This year has been one of my toughest draws so I have had to play some of my best tennis to get here. There have been tough matches against different types of players. My game should be in a good place going into the semis."
He is not even thinking about the final. First things first. The Frenchman will be as hard to catch as Spider-Man.
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image: © Carine06