Tennis: Casualties leave clear path to final for Murray

By Paul Newman of the Independent

Andy Murray. Photo / AP.
Andy Murray. Photo / AP.

After a day of extraordinary drama, Andy Murray will need to take a deep breath. With four of the biggest threats left in his half of the draw going out of the tournament, the 26-year-old Scot should take as much satisfaction from the fact that he came through his second-round match here unscathed as he did from the quality of his tennis.

Murray's comprehensive 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Lu Yen-hsun, of Chinese Taipei, took him through to the third round, in which he will face Spain's Tommy Robredo, the world No 29. For once, however, Murray will surely be unable to resist the temptation to look further ahead in the draw. Rafael Nadal, a potential semi-final opponent, had already gone out of the tournament and the Spaniard was joined on the list of the fallen by Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner and Marin Cilic, who were all in Murray's section.

The highest-ranked player the world No 2 can now meet before the semi-finals is Russia's Mikhail Youzhny, the world No 20, who needed five sets to beat Canada's Vasek Pospisil, the world No 103.

The highest-ranked player Murray can meet in the semi-finals is Nicolas Almagro, the world No 11.

Murray, nevertheless, still insisted that he would take one opponent at a time. "I'll just concentrate on my next match - I'm playing a tough player, a very experienced guy," he said. "Everybody was so obsessed with how the draw was before the tournament started. Now everybody wants to change their views on it because a few guys have lost. There's top players still left in, and there's a lot of young guys as well coming through."

The Scot admitted that the day's remarkable events had made him wary of the surface on Court One, though both he and Lu looked comfortable on their feet. Murray's second successive straight-sets victory was his 13th win in a row on grass and preserved his record of always making the third round here.

"When a lot of players get injured, the one thing is you may be a little tentative yourself at the beginning of the matches, maybe not feel that comfortable, not throw yourself around the court," he said. "But after the first few games, that normally goes away."

Lu, the world No 75, has never won a title on the main tour, but the 29-year-old performs well on grass, as he showed when beating Andy Roddick en route to the quarter-finals here three years ago. Murray, moreover, knew from personal experience how tough an opponent Lu can be, having lost to him in the first round of the Beijing Olympics five years ago. Murray, nevertheless, had won their only subsequent meeting, in Indian Wells earlier this year, and the Scot is in a rich vein of form, having won the title at Queen's Club.

As he did in his first-round victory over Benjamin Becker, Murray remained focused on his task throughout. The Scot served well, hitting 11 aces and winning 85 per cent of the points when his first serve found the target, and made only 14 unforced errors. His total of 41 winners was evidence of the quality of his attacking play. If there was a criticism to be made, he perhaps should have converted more than four of his 15 break points.

After the first five games, Murray might have been expecting a much more demanding test as Lu came out shooting from the hip. With Murray regularly at full stretch as Lu found his range immediately, the Scot had to defend three break points when he served at 2-2. He saved each of them with big serves and from that moment the match turned.

As Lu's level suddenly dipped, Murray broke to lead 4-2 but let his opponent off the hook when he had two set points two games later. He made no mistake in the following game, however, wrapping up the set with two consecutive aces. Murray broke in the opening game of the second set, which he rounded off with another break of serve, as Lu served a double-fault on the Scot's third set point.

Lu responded well and went on the attack in the third set in a final attempt to turn the tide. He saved a match point when he served at 4-5, but two games later Murray completed victory as his opponent, under pressure, hit a backhand long.

"I think it went pretty well," Murray said. "He started off pretty well, and then I think he had a few break points at 2-2 in the first set. Then when I saved them, I started to settle down a bit, and he made a few more mistakes. But the third set was high-quality. I was putting a lot of pressure on him, and he kept coming up with some good shots on break points, so I did well to finish it in three sets."

As for Robredo, Murray will not underestimate the 31-year-old Spaniard. "He's a tough player," Murray said. "He had a good win today against [Nicolas] Mahut, who has been playing well on the grass. He's very, very experienced. He's extremely fit.

"He won three matches in a row at the French from two sets to love down. He fights right until the last point. Last year he had some injury problems. When he's not injured, he's been in the top 20 in the world for a number of years. He knows how to win tennis matches."

-THE INDEPENDENT

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 18 Sep 2014 09:48:33 Processing Time: 260ms