Andy Murray’s reputation as the best British player of modern times was secured long ago, but the Scot last night moved within one victory of providing further statistical confirmation of his status.
A 6-3, 6-3 victory over Adrian Mannarino, which secured Murray’s place in the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells Masters, was the world No 4’s 496th tour-level victory, which puts him level with Tim Henman, previously the most successful British player in the Open era.
Murray played his best match of the tournament so far to beat an opponent who has enjoyed his best start to a year. Mannarino, a 26-year-old Frenchman, reached his first tour final in Auckland in January and was forced to retire with heat exhaustion at the Australian Open after holding a match point against Feliciano Lopez.
In enjoying his longest run at a Masters Series tournament at Indian Wells, he had not dropped a set in making the fourth round.
However, the world No 38 has lost all 12 of his meetings with top-10 opponents and in Murray he met a player in fine form. Murray dictated most of the points and repeatedly outfoxed Mannarino with his clever angles and injections of pace.
Mannarino was the first to draw blood, breaking to lead 3-2 when served a Murray double-fault, but the Scot’s response was excellent. Murray broke back immediately with a thumping backhand winner down the line, broke again to lead 5-3 and served out for the set.
Murray was unable to take four break points in the opening game of the second set, but it was Mannarino’s failure to convert two break points three games later that proved crucial. The Frenchman’s frustration was evident in the following game as Murray broke to love.
The Scot completed his victory after an hour and a half when Mannarino dropped served again, netting a backhand on his opponent’s second match point.
“It was a very tough match,” Murray said afterwards. “He’s playing very well this year. He’s got a very tricky game. He’s a leftie, which is always a bit different, and the way he plays – with an extremely flat backhand and a very short take-back on his forehand – he’s quite hard to read.
“He moves very well and he’s got good hands around the net, so it was tricky. I was fortunate that in both the sets he played one or two loose games, which helped me. I stayed solid throughout.”
Indian Wells is the only hard-court Masters Series tournament Murray has failed to win – he lost to Rafael Nadal in his only appearance in the final six years ago – but the Scot has a good chance of making further progress.
His quarter-final opponent will be Lopez, the world No 12, who beat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6. Murray has beaten Lopez in all nine of their previous meetings.