HE MAY be one racket down on the deal, but Andy Murray is safely through to the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters.
• Andy Murray beats Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-2 6-2
• Scot into last eight after playing just one match
The racket bit the dust in the second set of Murray’s 6-2, 6-2 demolition of Alexandr Dolgopolov yesterday. The world No 3 had been cruising along happily – aided and abetted by Dolgopolov’s dismal performance – when he threw in a poor service game. From a set and a break up, he was back to 2-2 in that second set. And he was furious.
Venting his frustrations on the nearest available object, the racket took a pasting.
“I got a bit frustrated,” Murray admitted. “I had just broken serve and played a bad game to get broken back. I wanted to try and finish the match as best as I could and I gave away the momentum that I had and let him back into the match. Sometimes it can be better to get your emotions out and move on. I managed to do that by breaking in the next game.
“Better to not let it fester and let it affect you for a few games. Like I say, I got the break in the next game, so that was good.”
Pretty much everything was good yesterday. Murray had not played a match since losing in the semi-finals of the Japan Open on Saturday so he was concerned that he might be a little slow off the mark against Dolgopolov. He need not have worried – he started well enough, stepped up the pressure after a handful of games and ran away with the rest of the match (bar that one poor service game).
He cracked down seven aces, his eye was in on the return and he only dropped ten points on serve throughout the match. “I think I did a decent job,” Murray said. “You know, he’s very explosive when the ball’s up around his shoulders. I just tried to keep the ball low, play solid, and I served well.”
Part of Murray’s frustration at being broken came from the fact that he has been trying to shake off a virus he picked up on the way to Tokyo last week. Not feeling at his brightest and best, he wanted to wrap up the match as quickly as possible and get back to his hotel room – letting Dolgopolov back into the fight by dropping serve was not on the agenda.
Today the Scot will take on Radek Stepanek, the veteran Czech who sits at No 41 in the world rankings. Murray has won four of their five previous meetings and for all that Stepanek is 33 years old, Murray knows that he will have to be on his toes from the very start if he is to reach the semi-finals.
“He’s one of the few guys that still plays at the top of the game in singles and doubles,” the Scot said. “He’s incredibly fit for his age. He’s in great shape. He’s incredibly quick and flexible. He has a very different game style to a lot of the guys now.
“He’s a character on the court, as well. He likes to entertain, too, and can frustrate guys. I’ll need to make sure I’m focused and patient and take care of my side of the court.”
Murray is attempting to win his third successive title in China but now the workload increases dramatically. Should he win today, he will, in all likelihood, play Roger Federer tomorrow with Novak Djokovic waiting for the winner in Sunday’s final.
Federer had a scare yesterday when he faced his old pal and countryman, Stanislas Wawrinka. Normally when these two meet, the result is one sided and predictable – Federer had won 11 of 12 previous encounters. But yesterday, Wawrinka fancied his chances and took the first set and then fought back from 3-1 down in the second.
Federer dodged that bullet and once he had won the second set, he sprinted to the finish 4-6, 7-6, 6-0. Djokovic hardly broke a sweat as he brushed aside Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3.
In Osaka meanwhile, Britain’s Heather Watson and Laura Robson booked their places in the quarter-finals of the Japan Open with contrasting wins.
Watson sealed her progression with an impressive performance against Spanish sixth seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, coming from a set down to seal a 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-3 win.
Next up for the world No 71 is a meeting with France’s Pauline Parmentier, who also pulled off a second-round shock by beating second-seeded Zheng Jie of China 6-3, 6-4.
Robson, the world No 60 and eighth seed in Osaka this week, sealed her place in the last eight with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over
China’s Zhou Yi-Miao.
Chang Kai-Chen of Chinese Taipei awaits Robson in the next round.
Also yesterday, seventh seed Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa defeated Mirjana Lucic of Croatia 6-2, 6-2.