Sir Andy Murray battled his way into the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open following a 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 straight-sets victory over Austria’s Gerald Melzer.
It was the first ever meeting between the 29-year-old and Melzer but the newly knighted Scot ensured he had a winning start to his head-to-head record in a difficult match against the hard-hitting left-hander, which took a gruelling two hours and 23 minutes to complete and set up a last-eight meeting against Spain’s Nicolas Almagro.
“He played great, great tennis and was dominating large parts of the match,” said Murray. “He made it extremely, extremely difficult. I was a bit lucky to go through in two sets.
“I think he’s playing much better than someone ranked 69 in the world. Today was a perfect example of the depth in the men’s game just now. I actually played pretty good, but he was hitting the ball huge from both sides. You need to be ready for every single match.”
Melzer started the match in a positive fashion with plenty of net approaches to frustrate his world No 1 opponent, and he nudged ahead with a break in the third game as the 26-year-old Austrian put early pressure on the Murray serve.
But Murray responded immediately with a break of his own to level the scores before breaking Melzer’s next service game to go 4-2 up in the first set. The left-hander hit back to reduce the arrears by taking the next game with his first break point opportunity courtesy of a kind bounce from the net cord and was serving to level the scores back up.
He managed to do just that after two booming forehands sealed the eighth game before the duo held the next four service games, which included Melzer holding off two break points, to take the opening set into a tie-breaker.
Murray raced into a 5-0 lead in the decider and despite Melzer hitting back to take six of the next seven points, he could not stop the Scot from taking the next two points and thus the first set.
The duo traded the first four legs of the second set, which looked to be heading towards another tie-break, before Murray found himself on break point on the Melzer serve but could not convert as the Austrian took a 3-2 advantage.
Murray levelled the scores once again with another hold of serve but found the break he needed against Melzer in the seventh game, before holding in the next, to leave him one game away from victory.
Melzer held off two match points to reduce the scores before disrupting the odds by extending the match further with a timely break at the second attempt to level the scores at 5-5. Murray needed four attempts to earn the second break of the second set which he used to his advantage as he served out the 12th game to seal the match.
Almagro, the world No 44, sealed his place in the last eight with a 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6) straight-sets success over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
World No 2 Novak Djokovic eased into the next phase with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos in just one hour and 13 minutes. Djokovic will play the evergreen Radek Stepanek who was a 6-3, 6-2 victor over Arthur De Greef
Fernando Verdasco defeated fourth seed David Goffin to advance with a 6-1, 7-6 (8/6) win over the Belgian.
Third seed Tomas Berdych won the battle of the Czechs as he triumphed over compatriot Jiri Vesely 7-6 (7/5), 1-6, 6-1 in three sets while big-serving Ivo Karlovic defeated Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/3).
Britain’s Kyle Edmund will face world No 4 Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International after both came through their second round matches yesterday.
Edmund progressed when opponent Lucas Pouille retired trailing the Briton 6-3, 3-1 while Wawrinka beat Viktor Troicki 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.