WIMBLEDON and US Open champion Andy Murray got his North American hardcourt campaign back on track with a 6-2, 6-3 dissection of Mikhail Youzhny yesterday to reach the last 16 of the Western and Southern Open.
Murray, who had a slow start to the hardcourt season with a third round loss to Ernests Gulbis in Montreal last week, arrived in Cincinnati eager to get matches ahead of the 26 August-9 September US Open, where he will arrive as a defending grand slam champion for the first time.
The Cincinnati hardcourts, where the 26-year-old Scot has twice been crowned champion, proved a perfect spot to build some momentum and Youzhny the perfect opponent as the Wimbledon champion took his record to 4-0 against the Russian.
On a sunny morning on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Murray got off to a bright start, twice breaking Youzhny to storm into a 4-0 lead before wrapping up the first set in 34 minutes.
Murray broke his 31-year-old opponent again to open the second set and, with the exception of a small hiccup when Youzhny broke at 4-2, rolled into the third round and a meeting with Frenchman Julien Benneteau
“I had good anticipation so I was able to chase a lot of balls down and today I managed to get a lot of balls back,” said Murray, winner of four titles so far this season.
“It’s not necessarily getting to the ball, it’s putting it in a position where it’s difficult for your opponent to hit a winner off and I think I did that well today.”
Murray admits he felt much more at home on court in Cincinnati than he did during his curtailed challenge in Montreal last week.
“I prefer the conditions here,” the Scot told Sky Sports. “It’s actually quite cool today but the court suits my game a little bit more here so I felt a bit more comfortable, I moved pretty well. It was an important match for me to get through, obviously. I want to try to get as many matches as possible this week before the US Open.
“I only got a couple last week so I was a little bit nervous before the start of the match because it was important to get through this one. I didn’t make too many mistakes, I just tried to play a solid match and find a way to win.”
Murray faces Benneteau in the third round today and is aware of the threat the 31-year-old could pose. “It’s a tough match,” he said. “I played him on this court a few years ago, was down a set and a break but managed to come back. He’s solid all round, comfortable up at the net. He doesn’t have one major weapon but he doesn’t have any massive weaknesses either.
“I need to play a smart match. He’s caused upsets before so I need to be ready for that one.”
Murray’s match was the start of a spectacular day of action on centre court at the Western and Southern Open, with Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams due in action last night.