The art of routine: Murray cruises past Bellucci
Originally published on 06/09/15
Some scorelines tell more of a story than others. Unseen is Bellucci’s 10-point run with the match in its infancy that but Murray a break and 0-30 down before recovering, breaking back and easing into his gameplan on a cool evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium. When it comes to contrasting atmospheres between sessions, the difference truly is night and day.
If Murray had been looking for a number to cling to, take 131 – the number of minutes taken to dispatch his 12th left-handed opponent of the year. Murray, who credits growing up with Jamie for his prowess against southpaws, needed a swift win and an early night to ensure he reaches the second week in New York with his batteries nearing full capacity. Having raced through the second set in 34 minutes, Murray held off a late rally from the Brazilian to wrap up the win at a canter.
The No.3 seed faces Kevin Anderson in the last 16, and conditions could prove to be a factor against the big-serving South African. “Obviously it's been hot, which speeds the ball up,” Murray said. “But the humidity felt like it made the balls bouncier, more bouncy than usual. Obviously against a tall guy who serves well, it will be a little bit harder to return the serve when it's like that.”
At least he has shaken off the head cold that has swept through the locker rooms in Flushing Meadows. “I felt much better,” he said. “My voice feels like normal again. Still dull obviously…”
Baby Grand: US Open’s beloved third court bows out
Grandstand, the beloved third court at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, played host to singles action for the last time on Saturday – and what a send-off it received. The general-admission court, nestled in the shadow of Louis Armstrong Stadium, is to be decommissioned after the US Open before being demolished ahead of the 2017 tournament. A new court on the other side of the complex will replace it in time for 2016.
A favourite with players and fans alike for its intimate atmosphere and unique vantage points, courtesy of a balcony high above the west side of the court, those that found a spot on Grandstand for its unofficial finale were treated to a potentially career-defining win for Donald Young. The American came from two sets down to win in five for the second time in as many matches – something he had never achieved before in his career – to beat Viktor Troicki in a thriller.
It was the third time this summer that Troicki has let a two-set lead slip from his grasp. After being beaten at Wimbledon by Vasek Pospisil, the Serbian slumped on Davis Cup duty against Federico Delbonis in Argentina. In an atmosphere reminiscent of the team competition, Young rose to the occasion as Troicki wilted to book a fourth-round showdown with Stan Wawrinka, who he beat in a fifth-set tiebreak at the US Open in 2011.
Sabine Lisicki and Barbora Strycova have a predisposition for drama, and so it proved in the final match of the day. Lisicki, the No.24 seed, edged in front after snatching the odd break in three in the first set before both women faltered on serve in the second, Strycova securing the crucial hold to take the match into a decider.
With her serving yips cured, the Czech surged clear in the decider and looked set to wrap up a creditable win at 5-1, but with nothing left to lose Lisicki began swinging – and connecting. Twice Strycova served for the match, twice she was broken, and with them went her resolve. Lisicki broke for a third time and served out a famous 6-4 4-6 7-5 win, collapsing to the court having secured a fourth-round showdown with Simona Halep.
Doubles action continues on Grandstand in week two, but Saturday bore all the hallmarks of the end of an era. It was some signoff.
Jo Konta’s dream run continues with sweet win 16
How long until your local club starts hosting sports psychology clinics? Watch the crucial moments in any match over the next week and you will see players point to their temple time and again, the salute of mental fortitude.
New York’s poster-girl for the mental movement is Britain’s own Jo Konta, the first GB qualifier to reach the fourth round in US Open history. Having beaten Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza in the second round – which, at 3h 23m, was the longest women’s match in New York since the introduction of the tiebreak – Konta collected her second top-20 scalp of the tournament, and fourth of the summer, with a 7-6(2) 6-2 win over Andrea Petkovic.
The German, suffering with the head cold that has spread through the locker rooms at Flushing Meadows, had no answer for another assured display from Konta, who is guaranteed to reach the top 60 after the US Open regardless of the result against No.5 seed Petra Kvitova in the last 16.
Sunday’s ones to watch
Serena Williams vs Madison Keys
There will be back-to-back episodes of the Williams show on Ashe tomorrow afternoon. Venus Williams, rolling back the years in week one, faces qualifier Anett Kontaveit aiming to reach her 11th US Open quarter-final, and first since 2010. And there she will await her sister, the history-chasing defending champion, or Madison Keys, who bounced Venus at the same stage of this year’s Australian Open before scaring Serena for a set in the semis. Keys, Serena Williams’ second American opponent, arrives fitter than she did in Melbourne and has no qualms about playing the villain of the piece in the pursuit of her own ambitions. Serena…well, she’s Serena.
Benoit Paire vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
A record four French players have reached the last 16 in New York. Jeremy Chardy faces defending champion Marin Cilic, while Richard Gasquet’s showdown with Tomas Berdych takes place on Monday, but the showdown between Benoit Paire and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ensures at least one Frenchman is guaranteed a spot in the quarter-finals. Tsonga is 11-1 against his countrymen and unbroken through three matches in New York, but Paire is on a tear in 2015, rising over 100 places to a career-high No.41 in July and beating last year’s finalist Kei Nishikori in the first round.