The rain-laden skies outside were as grey as an autumn afternoon in Scotland, but under the cover of the retractable roof here in the Ariake Colosseum yesterday Andy Murray's tennis shone like a summer's day by the Mediterranean. The 25-year-old Scot needed just 57 minutes to beat Slovakia's Lukas Lacko 6-1, 6-2 to earn a place against Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals of the Japan Open.
There were periods in the first set in particular when Murray was all but unplayable. From 15-15 in the opening game the world No 4 won 15 points in a row. Murray hit some spectacular cross-court forehands and Lacko, the world No 65, only broke the spell with his own piece of magic, chasing to retrieve a lob and then turning to drill a forehand pass beyond Murray's reach.
Lacko won just two points in the first five games but managed to bring some respectability to the scoreline with a minor recovery in mid-match.
Once Murray had broken in the third game of the second set, normal service was resumed. Playing perfectly judged drop shots and cruelly deceptive lobs, Murray wasted no time.
"I started the match well, which was nice, because it's been a long day," he said afterwards. "The match before ours was pretty long and we got here quite early, so I wanted to try and start well. It's not always easy, but I started the match almost perfectly. Then once I got the break in the second set I started to play better again."
The Scot said it was difficult to compare his performance with his opening-round win over big-serving Ivo Karlovic. "It can be difficult against Karlovic to know exactly how well you've played because there are very few rallies," he said. "You just hopefully have to play a couple of good points in some service games or maybe in the tie-break, so it was hard to tell in the first round. But today I played very well."
Murray will play doubles today with his brother Jamie – they begin the defence of their title here against Eric Butorac (Jamie's former partner) and Jarkko Nieminen – before meeting Wawrinka tomorrow. The 27-year-old Swiss has won four of his 11 meetings with Murray and has had a good year on hard courts, having reached the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters and the fourth round of the US Open.
Wawrinka needed more than two and a half hours to beat Jeremy Chardy 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, while Janko Tipsarevic, a potential semi-final opponent for Murray, beat Gilles Simon 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
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