US Open 2016: Andy Murray continues British march to Round 4 and tricky Dimitrov re-match
Andy Murray is through to the fourth round of the US Open 2016, where he will face Grigor Dimitrov
Andy Murray has not only been one of the strong tips for a second US Open title since his summer sweep of Queen’s, Wimbledon and the Rio Olympics, he was as hot a favourite to reach the fourth round on middle Saturday at Flushing Meadows as you could find.
He had lost just seven games to Lukas Rosol, ranked 81, and only six to Marcel Granollers, ranked 45. Now he took on the 34-year-old Italian Paolo Lorenzi, who was playing in his first third-round match in his 22nd Grand Slam event. It is fair to say that he was something of a surprise winner over the resilient No30 seed Gilles Simon.
Lorenzi, indeed, has been something of a late bloomer. He did not break the top 100 until he was almost 30, nor the top 50 until this February—aside from one week at 49 in 2013—and reached a career-high 39 last month. That peak, though, came on the back of his first main-tour title in Kitzbuhel, making him the oldest first-time winner in ATP history.
Interviewed at the time by the ATP, he admitted: “I don’t look at the age. I can say that I’m really happy and I don’t mind if it’s happening at 34. When I was younger, I think the dream is to become No1 and win a Grand Slam, but of course it’s not so easy, and only a few players can do this. But a goal of this year was to win one trophy, so this is great for me.”
He went on to say that his next goal was to play the Olympics, and he got to do that too, reaching the second round.
Yes, Lorenzi was something of a surprise, and considering it took him almost five hours to beat Simon late on Wednesday night, it was a physical task on the scale of Everest to return so soon and against one of the fittest men in tennis.
He and Murray warmed up alongside one another on Arthur Ashe come Saturday morning—a court that Murray knows well but that Lorenzi had experienced only once before, in a first-round trouncing by Novak Djokovic in 2012. The Italian won only two games.
Meanwhile, across on the US Open’s second court, Murray’s compatriot Dan Evans was attempting to make his own piece of history in what was already proving to be one of the best summers in his career. But he had to counter his ranking disadvantage of over 60 place to try and add Stan Wawrinka to his win list.
With three Challenger titles from five finals, and victories over Grigor Dimitrov in Washington and Alexandr Dolgopolov at Wimbledon, he beat the No27 seed and huge young talent, Sascha Zverev, to reach his second consecutive Major third round. Not content with that, Evans was having a ball in doubles with Nick Kyrgios, playing the same kind of uninhibited all-court tennis as in singles, and reaching the third round there, too.
Now standing at a career-high No60, he was bidding for his first fourth round at a Major. He was already part of a British trio of men, with Murray and Kyle Edmund, to make the third round at this tournament since 1968: Now, remarkably, he or Murray or both could set a new British record. Never in the Open era had two men made the fourth round at the US Open.
But his task was enormous against fellow one-hander and No3 seed Stan Wawrinka. The popular Swiss with the powerhouse backhand was not just a Major champion in Australia and France but three times a quarter-finalist in New York, going on to the semis in 2013. And when on form, he has the beating of anyone: He beat both Djokovic and Rafael Nadal for the Australian title, then Djokovic and Roger Federer for the French.
Murray though was up first, in what many confidently predicted would be a quick match. It was no such thing. Lorenzi played with the energy and gusto of a David Ferrer, but with more willingness to attack the net and exchange backhands with Murray. And it made for some thrilling rallies that very quickly got the crowd involved.
The Italian fought off four break points in the sixth game, and then converted his first to go 5-4 up, but a couple of missed first serves, and Murray grabbed the break back. They would go to a tie-break, and the Briton edged it with a huge forehand winner, 7-6(4).
Still Lorenzi raced around the court, rushing to the net, chasing back to pick up lobs, and living with Murray in the many long rallies. They exchanged breaks in the first two games, but Lorenzi was rewarded for his aggressive tactics with a growing number of errors from Murray. He broke for 5-2, but after the rally of the match, if not the week—a 42-shot thriller that earned a standing ovation—Murray levelled again, and it looked set for another tie-break.
However Lorenzi chivvied and chased, forced a forehand long from Murray on break point, and levelled the match, 7-5 after two hours. They were separated by just one point.
It became, surely, a question of how long the old legs of Lorenzi could last after his Simon efforts. He had run 9.1km to Murray’s 8.5km, but while the Briton had dominated on the winners side, 33-9, he needed to cut his errors—up to 50 in the two hours already played.
Both factors came together in the remaining two sets. Murray took the third set, 6-2, with 17 winners and four errors. He broke in the first of the next, and held off a break-back chance with his 10th ace, and though Lorenzi kept the pressure up right to the end, Murray now had rhythm and momentum, and broke for set and match, 6-3, after an hour and quarter.
Murray admitted: “I was making quite a few unforced errors. He’s an extremely solid player and doesn’t give you many cheap points. I was trying to get cheap points. When I actually slowed things down rather than going for quick shots, my errors went down, the winners went up, and the scoreboard started working in my favour.”
Murray next plays Grigor Dimitrov who, it so happens, beat Murray in their last meeting, at the Miami Masters, and their last two, both on hard courts, have gone the distance.
The Bulgarian beat Joao Sousa, 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, to reach the last 16 of a Major for the first time since the start of last year as he continues his return from a slump in form. Since teaming up with Murray’s former assistant coach, Dani Vallverdu, at the Toronto Masters, Dimitrov has risen from No40 to 24.
In another popcorn tie, former champion and recent Olympic silver medallist Juan Martin del Potro continued his resurgence after years of wrist injury, to beat David Ferrer, 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-3. It takes the Argentine into the second week at a Grand Slam for the first time in over three years.
He will next play Dominic Thiem, who beat Pablo Carreno Busta, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
However, while Murray was battling to the fourth round, Evans was attempting to do the same—and that was a whole other story.