Wimbledon 2016: Murray scores 35th win of year to join Cilic and Raonic in round three
The British number one breezes into the next round after a straight sets victory over Yen-Hsun Lu
Most who took to Centre Court to watch No2 seed Andy Murray play his way to what looked like a straightforward third-round place may not have been familiar with his 32-year-old opponent from Chinese Taipei, Yen-Hsun Lu.
But for all his lowly ranking of 76, his modest 11-12 record at Wimbledon, and his single main-tour match-win this year, there was a little bit of history to their meeting. It was a timely history too, coinciding with the announcement by the ITF of the participants in the Rio Olympics in five weeks’ time.
For the first of their four meetings had been at the 2008 Olympics, and Lu had beaten the young Murray 7-6, 6-4 in the first round. Murray was reaching the peak of his powers—he had just won the Cincinnati Masters and would go on to reach his first US Open final, while Lu was ranked just the same as he is now.
They did not meet against until 2013, and in the meantime, Lu had reached his first and only Wimbledon quarter-final in 2010, but it so happened that Lu was one of Murray’s victims on the way to the Briton’s Wimbledon title in 2013. Their last meeting was on grass, too, at Queen’s last year, Murray again winning the title: Lu had not won a set since Beijing.
To make matters a little more lop-sided, Lu had missed the first four months of the season following elbow surgery but Murray still insisted this would be a tricky match, with some reason:
“It’s a very tough match. He’s played the three grass-court Challengers in the build-up. He’s won two of them and lost in the final of one.”
That made for an 11-match winning streak. And Lu hit the grass running here, too, breaking in the second game with one of his signature drop-shots. Certainly his game is designed for grass, with lots of slice, angle, drops and overheads at the net. But then Murray has all those skills and more. He arrived at Wimbledon yet again with the Queen’s title, and quickly began to assert his superior power and touch.
The two treated Centre Court to some fine extended exchanges, but Murray came out the better of them in the sixth game to break back, pulled off a superb lob winner to hold, and broke to love for 5-3.
Lu had a last flurry of brilliance to work two break points and several deuces, but Murray aced to hold, 6-3.
With that, the flood-gates opened. Murray flowed, feeding off the Lu game, chasing down the drops, throwing up lobs, and breaking in the first game with a cross-court pass. A backhand winner held for 2-0, he broke again for 5-2, and was two sets to the good inside an hour and a quarter, 6-2.
By the third, it began to look almost cruel. Whatever Lu delivered, Murray countered or undermined. The No2 seed began to make first-strike returns, and broke to love. He got the better of a couple of drop-volley exchanges, broke again for 4-0 and once more for the match, 6-1.
The hour and 40 minutes confirmed that the scoreline had been a little generous to Murray, and he agreed:
“The first set was tough, with a lot of close games. Once I managed to hang on at the end—he had break points, I think—I settled down, and started hitting the ball much better and cleaner.”
Next up is Australian John Millman, ranked No67, who beat No26 seed Benoit Paire, 7-6(5), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
A potential quarter-final opponent for Murray, No7 seed Richard Gasquet, later came through Marcel Granollers, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.
Elsewhere, the biggest upset was the loss of No13 seed David Ferrer, though he did face one of the best unseeded grass exponents in the field, ‘s-Hertogenbosch champion Nicolas Mahut. The 34-year-old Frenchman, as ill fortune would have it, next players his Grand Slam winning doubles partner, Pierre-Hugues
Two other seeds to fall were No23 Ivo Karlovic to Lukas Lacko, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, and No16 seed Gilles Simon to Grigor Dimitrov, 6-3, 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-4, though the Bulgarian, newly ranked outside the seedings, has a grass-court pedigree: He reached the semis here in 2014 and is a former Queen’s champion too.
In the same half, the one topped by Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer—who both advanced yesterday—No5 seed Kei Nishikori got the better of French veteran Julien Benneteau, here with a protected ranking, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Next for Nishikori is Andrey Kuznetsov, who beat Gilles Muller, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Also in this quarter, No9 seed Marin Cilic and Sergiy Stakhovsky enthralled a packed arena with some very fine tennis, but the Croat eventually got the better of his unseeded opponent, 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-4.
In the other quarter, No6 seed Milos Raonic, a semi-finalist here two years ago and currently under the guiding hand of former champion John McEnroe, beat Andreas Seppi, 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-2, serving out the match with a 25th ace.
He next plays No27 seed Jack Sock, who beat Robin Haase, 6-1, 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-4.