ANDY MURRAY needed a straightforward victory and he got it as the British number one breezed past Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci to reach the US Open fourth round.
Murray survived two draining encounters in the opening two rounds at Flushing Meadows but the Scot was able finally to conserve some energy, winning 6-3 6-2 7-5.
He now faces big-serving South African Kevin Anderson, ranked 14th in the world, for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It was a very important win for me today,” Murray said.
“My last match was extremely tough physically and mentally.
“It was a lot cooler today, which helped, so to get the win in three sets in much cooler conditions, I’ll get a day to recover now and get ready for the next one.”
Anderson stretched Novak Djokovic to five sets at Wimbledon in July and the 29-year-old may herald the start of a fiendish run for Murray, possibly preceding Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer, before Djokovic in the final.
Murray is renowned as one of the most athletic players on the tour and, despite testing wins over Nick Kyrgios and Adrian Mannarino already in New York, the number three seed showed few signs of fatigue under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Bellucci, the world number 30, has never been past the second round in this tournament before but he had beaten Murray in their single previous meeting, albeit on clay in 2011.
Save for an early break, however, there were few signs of a repeat as Murray got straight back on terms and cranked up the pressure midway through the first set, creating four break points in a lengthy eight-deuce game but failing to convert any.
Bellucci was going toe-to-toe with his opponent from the baseline, where his whipping forehand found depth and angle, but when the points became more varied Murray proved too quick in thought and execution.
A fortunate net-chord helped the Scot open up another chance at 4-3 and this time he took it as a sizzling forehand pass proved too cute for Bellucci to retrieve.
Murray served out the first set with ease and carried his momentum into the second, where he broke again in the opening game thanks to a Bellucci double fault.
The Brazilian stuck to his guns at the back but just as his aggression increased, so did the skill of Murray’s defence and a brilliant backhand pass at 4-2 set the Briton on course for the double break and a two-set lead.
With nothing to lose, Bellucci rolled the dice, unleashing his forehand with greater freedom, just as Italy’s Fabio Fognini had the night before when trailing Rafael Nadal.
There was to be no late drama this time, however, as Murray broke at 5-5 and served out a comfortable victory in two hours and 11 minutes.