ANDY MURRAY reckons his next SW19 opponent David Ferrer is an all-round top bloke and good professional who is playing the best tennis of his life at the age of 30.
But there will be no more Mr Nice Guy when the Scot and the Spaniard lock horns in a quarter-final showdown this afternoon.
The World No.5 and No.7 seed – who is the sole Spaniard left in the draw following the exit of Rafael Nadal – is a huge threat to Murray's hopes of becoming the first Brit since Fred Perry 1936 to win the men's singles at Wimbledon, so the pair of locker room pals will put their friendship on hold for a couple of hours on Centre Court.
"David is a very nice guy," Murray said of the player who has won more matches than any other man on the tour this year and knocked him out at this stage at the French Open three weeks ago.
"He's a great professional. He's playing the best tennis of his career in his 30s, which it seems is happening more and more now with men.
"He's been with the same coach [Javier Piles] for his whole career.
"I've known them for a long time. He has just kept working, doing all the right things and just kept improving.
"He's improved his serve, he's improved his game on all courts. He's now winning matches everywhere. That's credit to him and he deserves it because he works very hard."
Murray has the bigger serve of the two men, but both are excellent returners who move well on the court.
The Scot will hope to give the Spaniard the run around, but setting the tone for Ferrer is his super fit coach Piles, who has a fondness for running marathons and jogging back to the hotel after play each day.
"His coach is an unbeliev-ably fit guy," said Murray. "He's in unbelievable shape. I chat to him about that a lot, ask him what he's been running. He likes running round all the parks in London.
"At the Miami tournament at the end of the day he always runs back from the courts all the way over Key Biscayne and over the bridge to where their hotel is. It's like 11 kilometres. He does that every single day. I wouldn't beat him in a race, that is for sure. And obviously that work ethic has paid off with David."
The players have never previously met each other on grass, with the head-to-head record between the pair standing at five wins apiece.
The Spaniard, however, has won the last two meetings, including that four-set victory at Roland Garros.
"We'll see if that match has any relevance," Murray said.
"Tennis changes on a weekly basis. Some guys play great one week and struggle the next. Last year I think Novak [Djokovic] had never beaten Rafa in a final, and then he wins six or seven-in-a-row."
Murray concluded his 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory against Croatia's Marin Cilic in quick time on Court One.
The match was eventually finished in its fourth sitting, with Murray listening to singer-songwriter Ed Sheerin on his iPod during the short break yesterday. "I listened to music in the break," Murray said.
"This time I did a pretty good job in the rain delay. That hasn't always been the case."
Much was made before the match about the Scot being moved off Centre Court to take on Cilic on Court One.
After initially benefiting from the roof on SW19's main stage, many critics have accused tournament bosses of hindering Murray's chances of capturing the men's title after rain delayed his fourth-round victory.
As a result, the world No.4 will now play three days back-to-back. However, the fans' favourite, who seems to have won over the Wimbers crowd in recent years, believes he has not yet earned the right to command an automatic spot on Centre Court.
"All of the players would say they would rather play on Centre because they know they're going to finish their match.
"I don't deserve to play all my matches on Centre Court. Someone like Roger [Federer] does.
"It's not a bad thing playing on the outside courts. It's just when the conditions are bad it's not ideal to be out there because matches can last for two or three days, and then you get a backlog.
"However, I don't think just because you're from the home country you should necessarily get preferential treatment, but I hope that I play my next few matches on Centre."
Speaking about his current fixture pile up, Murray added: "It's not just me. There's lots of guys in exactly the same position.
"The more rest you can get the better, but it's part of playing grand slam tennis."