Andy Murray puts down marker in Miami

 

Andy Murray had fallen at the first hurdle on both his previous appearances at the Miami Masters but there was rarely any danger of a repeat performance by the 24-year-old Scot yesterday.

Murray needed just 76 minutes to beat Colombia's Alejandro Falla 6-2, 6-3 and earn a place in the third round against the big-serving Canadian, Milos Raonic, who beat Arnaud Clément 7-6, 6-2.

Having also lost first time out in Indian Wells a fortnight ago, it was understandable that Murray should make a cautious start, but after sharing the first four games he won eight of the next nine to take a grip on the match. Falla, who won the opening two sets against Roger Federer in the first round at Wimbledon two years ago, then rallied briefly by breaking serve for a second time, but the world No 71 was unable to sustain his challenge.

Although Murray failed to win a match in four of his six previous visits to Miami, his other two appearances should give him confidence. The world No 4 reached the semi-finals in 2007 before losing to Novak Djokovic and earned his revenge against the Serb two years later by beating him in the final.

This year Murray is seeded to face France's Gilles Simon, a 6-4, 6-2 winner yesterday over the Spanish qualifier Roberto Bautista-Agut, in the fourth round. Tomas Berdych, who was meeting Nicolas Mahut last night, was a potential quarter-final opponent. Rafael Nadal, who was due to play the final match of the day against Santiago Giraldo, was seeded to meet Murray in the semi-finals. Djokovic and Federer are the top seeds in the other half of the draw.

Britain's Heather Watson enjoyed one of the best victories of her career when she beat the Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova 6-2, 6-1 in just 81 minutes. Safarova, the world No 25, is one of the most experienced players in the women's game. She has won four WTA titles and includes Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova among her victims this year.

Watson broke Safarova's serve five times and held on doggedly to her own, saving six out of seven break points against her. The 19-year-old from Guernsey is based at Nick Bollettieri's academy in Florida and was given a wild card to play in Miami. She beat Romania's Sorana Cirstea in the first round and now meets Victoria Azarenka, the world No 1, who beat the Dutchwoman Michaella Krajicek 6-3, 7-5. Azarenka is unbeaten this year.

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