Wimbledon 2014: Andy Murray passes Bautista Agut test with flying colours
Wimbledon 2014: Andy Murray beats Roberto Bautista Agut in straight sets to reach the fourth round
Things had been pretty straight-forward for defending champion and home favourite, Andy Murray, in the first week of Wimbledon.
He got past a tricky first-round customer in David Goffin in straight sets, albeit facing some sterner tennis in the 7-5 third.
Then against Blaz Rola, he lost only two games, showing some quite immaculate form.
But against his third-round opponent, he expected a tougher test against the in-form No27 seed Roberto Bautista Agut who, at the age of 26, has been slowly maturing into his considerable all-court talent.
The Spaniard has proved to be a great mover, nimble, with touch and variety in his baseline game, and in 2014, it had all begun to fall into place for a man Murray had known from junior days.
But while Murray had accumulated 28 titles, two of them Majors, by the age of 26—Wimbledon 2013 is his most recent title after taking months off the tour following back surgery last autumn—Bautista Agut had won only a single title. However, it happened to be at a grass tournament, in ‘s-Hertogonbosch, just a week before Wimbledon.
That was the latest in a number of firsts this season for the Spaniard: His first Grand Slam fourth-round came in Australia, his first Masters semi in Madrid, his first top-five scalps in Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych along the way.
Reaching the third round at Wimbledon this year bettered his first visit last year, but represented only his fourth grass tournament. Meanwhile, Murray’s credentials on grass are among the best on the tour, third behind only Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt. And even more impressive, he came into this match on a 15-match streak at the All England Club. After reaching the Wimbledon final in 2012, he went on to win gold at the Olympics before claiming the Wimbledon title last year.
The two had never played each other before, despite their years on the tour, and it promised to be a fascinating contest. Murray certainly anticipated a test: “He’s a very good player. It will be a step up for sure.
“He doesn’t play like a lot of the Spanish guys. He plays very flat. Not much topspin. The grass courts suit his game pretty well… He’s improving all the time.”
But in the event, Murray treated the man ranked at a career-high 23 this week with as much contempt as he had his last.
Bautista Agut had chances in Murray’s opening service game with a few deuces, but once Murray found his groove, he snuffed out almost every opening that Bautista Agut created. Indeed the Spaniard could not work a single break point in the opening set, and a clean stats sheet did him little good. He may have committed only four errors and served at 83 percent, but Murray thumped 12 winners to five errors, broke twice and took the opener, 6-2, in under half an hour.
The Spaniard did everything well, but Murray could do it all better—and was stepping into the court to take every ball early. Such offensive play, matched by strong serving, great foot-speed and some of the most destructive slice in tennis, is rapidly making grass his best surface. He looked entirely at home, manipulating the tactics, defending efficiently and transitioning to attack in the blink of an eye.
He raced to 5-2 before Bautista Agut managed a break back—only to break a third time with a quite beautiful backhand volley to take the set, 6-3. The match was 61 minutes old.
It looked as though Murray was on his way to another bagel set at 4-0, but Bautista Agut had a last flourish, breaking back for 4-2 and, to his great credit, really giving Murray the run-around with some outstanding placement and retrieval. In the final set alone, he made five out of five points at the net, and 12 out of 14 in the match—which begged the question… why did he not try to mix it up more often?
As it was, Murray looks entirely within himself, hitting winners at will—he ended the match with 43 of them—and breaking to take the set and match, 6-2.
I hope the fans keep making more noise, as it really helps me
It took him to the fourth round here for the eighth time in nine years—he did not play in 2007 because of wrist injury—as well as his 40th match-win at Wimbledon and his 30th of the year.
Murray next plays No20 seed Kevin Anderson, who won a tough five-setter over No16 seed Fabio Fognini. Murray has split his two previous meetings with Anderson, the South African winning their last contest in Montreal three years ago.
Murray commented: “Kevin is a tough opponent. He is a big guy with a big game and I will need to be sharp when I play him. I hope the fans keep making more noise, as it really helps me.”
Murray is ultimately on course to face old friend/foe and top seed Novak Djokovic in the semis. The Serb had no trouble in beating Gilles Simon, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4—though twinged his left shoulder when he took a tumble in the final set.
But both Murray and Djokovic have seen the biggest opponents in their quarters fall. David Ferrer lost in the second round, but No6 seed Tomas Berdych failed to make his 100th Grand Slam match-win, losing to the in-form Marin Cilic, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6.
Djokovic faces No14 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round after the Frenchman, who has played every day this week due to end-of-day carry-overs, beat Jimmy Wang, 6-2, 6-2, 7-5. He, more than most, will relish the two days’ rest that the top half of the draw now enjoys.
Other winners were Jeremy Chardy, who beat Sergiy Stakhovsky to reach the fourth round of here for the first time, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0. He next faces Cilic.
No11 seed Grigor Dimitrov came from behind to reach his first Wimbledon fourth round over Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. He goes on to face unseeded Leonardo Mayer.