Toronto Masters: Andy Murray serves up impressive win over Nick Kyrgios
Toronto Masters: Andy Murray seals an emphatic 6-2 6-2 victory over dangerous Nick Kyrgios after a scant 53 minutes
At last, Toronto dawned bright and sunny: not too cold, not too humid, just right.
And the same might be said of the line-up that awaited one of the most enthusiastic crowds on the ATP tour. Through qualifying Saturday and Sunday, through rain storms and heat, through day and night sessions, the Rexall Centre has been a throng of fans of all ages. And on this mid-Wednesday, they were more than rewarded, and not just by the weather.
It featured six of the world’s top 10 players, spearheaded by two former Rogers Cup champions. And in two-time winner Andy Murray and three-time winner Novak Djokovic, who followed him onto Centre Court, Toronto hoped it had the makings of one of the best quarter-finals on the Masters calendar this year.
Twenty times the contemporaries have met and, because Murray had slipped in the rankings after months out at the end of 2013 following back surgery, their 21st meeting was scheduled unusually early.
Djokovic held the advantage in the previous meetings, 12-8, but they had split their eight meetings in North American Masters right down the middle, with Murray winning their only contest in Toronto.
However, both had formidable opponents in their first matches back since Wimbledon. Djokovic took on the flamboyant Frenchman Gaels Monfils, newly back in the top 20 after repeated injuries, though the Serb was hot favourite: He had, after all, never fallen before the quarter-final stage of the Rogers Cup in seven previous appearances.
But if Djokovic’s first opponent was unpredictable, Murray’s was just as unsettling. For even before the Briton had the chance to take on the two-time Rogers Cup runner-up, Richard Gasquet—who himself edged past the dangerous Ivo Karlovic in three sets—Murray took on the exciting 19-year-old Australian, Nick Kyrgios, who burst through to the quarters of Wimbledon this year.
The tall unconventional young man shot from 173 in the rankings to No65 in the space of five weeks during the grass season. At Wimbledon, he became the first teenager to defeat a world No1 in a Major—in his case, Rafael Nadal, in a barnstorming four sets, and remains the only teenager in the top 100.
Toronto was his Masters debut and already he had put out No30 Santiago Giraldo. He was full of confidence, bravado and talent—and a dangerous place to start the summer hard-court journey.
However, Murray brooked no nonsense from the off. Indeed he looked as though he had been playing on one of his most successful surfaces for months. Kyrgios held his opening service game but was broken in the next as Murray quickly picked up the young player’s serve with some outstanding returns of serve.
Murray held to love to go 3-1 as his own serving kicked in—and it would become a quite glittering performance throughout the match. Kyrgios held once more but would barely get another point in the set as Murray broke him to love and took 14 out of 15 of his own first serves. He had lost only three points on serve as he closed out the set, 6-2, in 24 minutes.
The Murray serve kept a firm grip on the match in the second set, too, though his returning yielded enough mistakes to keep Kyrgios in contention for the first four games, 2-2.
Perfectionist that he is, this was the only stage in the match that Murray showed any irritation. Otherwise, his tennis looked like a well-oiled machine. A fine lob earned him break point in the fifth game and with Kyrgios steadily leaking more errors under pressure, the Briton broke.
Not until the sixth game did Murray drop a point on serve—via a double fault—but it was a rare error. He broke again, and served out the match, 6-2, after a scant 53 minutes, having dropped not one point in 10 first serves.
It was a hugely popular win: Murray is clearly both liked and admired here. More important, it was a smooth victory that showed off Murray’s all-court skills to their best. He looked fit, fast and confident, though remained, as always, his understated self in front of the media.
“I thought I did most things like pretty solid. I didn’t make too many errors. I moved well. High first serve percentage. And, yeah, it was a solid match for a first match back after four and a half, five weeks. I was happy.”
He talked, too, of the impact of his back surgery on getting back into top shape:
“I started to feel good just before the French Open. Back felt fine throughout the French and the grass court season. The only problem was that before that I was able to practise but not train off the court, do the stuff in the gym that makes you physically strong. So when I was coming up against the better players, I was just lacking a little bit. But after Wimbledon, I went over to Miami and I really trained like I used to for the first time since the surgery and I felt much better.”
He will, of course, need to be at his best with the draw that lies ahead. Djokovic described this section of the draw as ‘terrible’: Did Murray feel the same?
“Yeah, well, [terrible] for me, as well. I mean, I’m in the section with the No1 player in the world. But upsets happen, so, you know, I could lose my next match and then maybe Novak thinks the section is better or vice versa.
“It only becomes relevant if we end up playing each other in the quarter-finals, because if one of us loses, then you might say, ‘Well, this section is more open’.
“But, yeah, I mean, being in the section of the draw with the No1 player, that hasn’t happened the last few years based on the seeding and being in the top three or four players.
“I have had it a couple of times this year… like in Miami we played in the quarters, as well … so it’s a tough draw, but it’s also good to play against someone like a Novak if you get that opportunity in the build-up to the US Open. You really see where your game is at.”
After this tricky opener, it looks as though Murray’s is in a decent place.