Indeed there has been hardly a year since he turned ‘pro’ in 2005 that he has not broken through a new personal or national barrier.
Appropriately enough, it was on the home soil at London’s Queen’s Club in 2005 that the 18-year-old made his first impression, and very nearly made it to the quarter-finals, falling just short, 6-7, 7-6. 7-5.
A fortnight later, he almost reached the second week of Wimbledon, falling to David Nalbandian in five sets.
The teenage Murray began to show his formidable ability on hard courts, too, taking Marat Safin to three sets in Cincinnati and, two weeks later, scoring a debut win at the US Open. By the end of that first year, Murray had reached a first final, in Bangkok, where he faced Roger Federer for the first time.
2006 brought his first title and 2007 his 100th match-win. In 2008 he won his first Masters titles, two of them, and reached his first Grand Slam final in New York—the first British player since Greg Rusedski in 1997 to reach a Major final.
He reach 200 wins in 2009, his most prolific year to date with six titles, including two more Masters.
Win No300 came at the 2010 World Tour Finals and No400 at Roland Garros in 2012. That was followed by his first Wimbledon final, gold at the Olympics—the first British singles champion in over 100 years—and his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, the first by a British man since Fred Perry in 1936.
The next 100 match-wins took a little longer, but more records still tumbled. In 2013, he became the first Briton since Perry to win Wimbledon, and in 2014 he spearheaded GB to its first Davis Cup quarter-final since 1986.
In Indian Wells this year, he overtook Tim Henman’s 496 match-wins to claim the most wins by a Briton in the Open era. And on this hot, bright day in Miami, he was about to win No500—and just like the first match-win, it was on something akin to ‘home turf’, for Miami is Murray’s second home and a place where he has twice won this prestigious Masters title.
But this was a day when six of the world’s top 10 were vying for a quarter-final place, and Murray had one of the tougher assignments in the tall No15 seed, Kevin Anderson.
Thus far, though, Murray had looked in great form, clearly relishing the Miami court and conditions. And he started just as he would have hoped. Anderson opened with a double fault, and Murray broke immediately.
To push home the point, the Briton opened with a drop-shot winner and held to love, and did so again for 3-1. He defended a break point in the eighth game and served out the set, 6-4, in three-quarters of an hour.
Anderson, though, was playing his part in a high-quality match, and there was little to split them in winners or errors. But then Murray came unstuck at the start of the second set.
Called for an over-zealous time-violation, he was clearly upset, lost concentration and his serve. To compound the problem, Anderson lifted his game with some attacking serves, a fine angled volley winner, and a one-two punch to make it 3-0.
Murray was still distracted, chatting to the umpire at the change of ends, and netted a poor backhand to concede another break.
But Anderson showed just a small chink in his armour with a double fault, and it refocused Murray, who stepped in to return with extra aggression, and broke back. He then had Anderson 0-30 down at 4-2, but the South African held on and served out the set, 6-3.
Anderson’s bold and clean-hitting tennis notched up 14 winners to six errors for the set, but could he maintain such a high level of power and accuracy? It was all laid on the line in the second game of the decider, as Murray defended for all he was worth, and despite some effective net play, Anderson could not resist a third break point. Murray took the 2-0 lead with a huge roar.
But that was still not the end of it. Anderson broke back, but Murray kept up a terrific work rate to track down everything the South African could throw at him and broke once more—and that would be enough. Murray served out his 500th win, 6-3, after just over two hours of very fine tennis.
Both men scored more winners than errors—a rare event this year in this tournament—and between them they made 32 points at the net. But it was that impressive round number that stole the show, or rather the huge celebratory cake given to Murray on court.
“Obviously it means a lot. There’s not a whole lot of people who have got to 500. To do it here in Miami was quite fitting as I’ve done a lot of hard yards on this court, put in a lot of work here. Yeah, it was fitting it was here.”
Then he added, with a smile: “I’m hoping it’s not the last match I win! I hope I’ve got few more in my career. There’s a certain number I’d like to get to before I finish playing, hopefully my body can hold up to get there.”
He did not let on what the big number was, but did mention another big event: “Next week I’ve got the wedding to look forward—so a lot to celebrate over the next 10 days or so.”
I’m hoping it’s not the last match I win! I hope I’ve got few more in my career
Murray is to marry his long-standing girlfriend, Kim Sears, back at his luxury hotel in Scotland, but on his performance so far, she will no doubt anticipate staying in Florida until the weekend.
Murray next plays 21-year-old Dominic Thiem, who is finally fulfilling the huge promise that was on full show in their only previous match, last year in Rotterdam. Murray eventually won, after almost two and a half hours, in three compelling sets.
And Murray had very warm words about the young Austrian, who reached his first Masters quarter-final with victory over Adrian Mannarino, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5: “I practise with him quite a lot. He’s a very nice guy, he works very hard, very respectful, great attitude: He’s got a great future ahead.”
The bottom quarter of the draw, which will determine the other semi-finalist in Murray’s half, will be contested by No8 seed Tomas Berdych, who advanced when Gael Monfils retired injured, and the unseeded former No10 Juan Monaco, who beat Fernando Verdasco, 6-3, 6-3.
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