So far so good. Andy Murray maintained his record of not dropping a set at this year’s Australian Open when he beat Florent Serra 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 here today to take his place in the fourth round. The 22-year-old Scot rarely looked in trouble against his French opponent and completed his victory in just under two hours.
Murray’s last appearance in the Hisense Arena, the second show court here at the Australian Open, had ended in one of his most disappointing results of 2009. Having arrived in Melbourne as one of the favourites to win the season’s opening Grand Slam tournament, Murray won his first three matches convincingly before running into Fernando Verdasco, who beat him in five sets and went on to enjoy the best run of his career by reaching the semi-finals.
Although it was mostly overcast, the conditions today were muggy and energy-sapping. Given that Serra had needed five sets to win both his previous matches, against Jurgen Melzer and Jarkko Nieminen, the 28-year-old world No 64 must have been hoping that he would not have to go the distance again.
Murray ensured that would not be the case. Although he played erratically in the first set, the world No 4 generally looked in excellent shape. He hit 14 aces and 49 winners and produced his usual mixture of deft touches, clever changes of pace and controlled aggression.
From the start Serra played an attacking game, going for his shots from the baseline, though there was nothing much he could do about the first three points, all aces struck by Murray down the middle of the court.
The Scot broke Serra in the second game, though the first set was by no means one-way traffic. Murray had his serve broken twice and mixed some typical moments of genius with a number of errors. When Serra served at 3-4 Murray broke him with three superb shots – a running forehand down the line and two crashing backhand crosscourt winners – only to drop his own serve to love in the next game.
Murray seemed to hurt his back in the ninth game, but although he momentarily dropped his serving speed it did not seem to trouble him unduly. When Serra served on set point at 5-6 Murray hit an exquisite lob and followed it up with a crosscourt forehand that the Frenchman was unable to return.
Winning 11 out of 12 games, Murray took the second set with something to spare and raced into a 3-0 lead in the third. Serra rallied briefly, but the Frenchman was only delaying the inevitable. When Murray served at 5-4 he clinched the match in typically flamboyant fashion with an exquisite drop shot.