Murray marches into fourth round
Following Novak Djokovic’s shock defeat to Denis Istomin on Thursday, Murray avoided a similar fate with a 6-4 6-2 6-4 victory on a packed Hisense Arena on Friday afternoon.
Querrey memorably knocked Djokovic out of Wimbledon last summer, ending the Serb’s pursuit of the calendar year Grand Slam, but the No.31 seed could not produce another upset as Murray beat the American for a seventh time in eight meetings.
Six-time champion Djokovic’s early exit leaves Murray as the red-hot favourite to win a first Australian Open title, but the Scot insists Istomin’s win is irrelevant unless he gets to the final.
“It doesn’t change anything unless I was to potentially reach the final, because I can’t play Novak in the fourth round or in the third round,” said Murray, who has finished runner-up in Melbourne on five occasions. “Obviously, if you’re to get to the final, then it has an effect. A lot of the times when I’ve been in the final here, I’ve played against him.
“I wasn’t scheduled to play Novak today, so my job’s to concentrate on Sam and to go into that match with a clear head and a good game plan and try to play well. I did that.”
The game plan certainly worked. Querrey, the world No.32, made Murray produce some of his best tennis, but aside from the first set, when the American failed to convert a break point in the eighth game, it was an imperious performance by the Scot.
“The start of the match was hard,” Murray said, “Sam came out serving big. He was really going for his shots.”
Murray got the crucial break in the ninth game, which lasted seven minutes. Having let two break points go by, Murray clinched the break with an offensive forehand lob which left Querrey, who came to the net 48 times in the match, but won only 50% of those points, able only to watch the ball sail over his 6’6” frame.
“When I saved that [break point] and broke the next game, momentum was with me,” said Murray. “I started to serve a bit better, put a lot more returns back in play after that. I played some good stuff.”
It looked like Querrey had regrouped after dropping the opening set, winning the first game of the second set to love, but Murray broke Querrey’s next two service games, and wrapped up the second set in 29 minutes.
Murray was fortunate to get a break in the first game of the third set when he hit a backhand pass, which clipped the net and dropped over. Although Querrey got a break of serve himself in the fourth game, with the finish line in sight, Murray stepped it up a gear. He broke Querrey for a 5-4 lead, and the final two points of that game were breathtaking in the Scot’s ability to get to the ball, even when he seemed nowhere near as the ball dropped his side.
Murray double faulted on his first match point, but made no mistake on his second, serving a ball down the ‘T’, and Querrey could only return in the net.
“I think I played a little bit better each match,” said Murray. “There’s not been one thing I’ve been delighted with. I thought I moved much better today than I did in the first two matches, which is really positive for me. Each match I think I’ve improved a little bit.”
Into the fourth round of the Australian Open for the ninth straight year, Murray will meet German Mischa Zverev, who is playing for the first time in the last sixteen.
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