Andy Murray has won all four of his matches against Americans at the US Open and five of his six encounters with Frenchmen at Roland Garros but has only ever met one home player here at the Australian Open. Having beaten Marinko Matosevic with plenty to spare last week, the Scot will tomorrow hope to claim a second Australian scalp when he takes on the country’s most exciting prospect, 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios, in the quarter-finals of the year’s opening Grand Slam event.
By beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 in a pulsating fourth-round match here last night, Murray extended his remarkable record of consistency. The world No 6 is through to the last eight for the sixth year in a row and has now made the quarter-finals of the last 16 Grand Slam tournaments in which he has competed.
Kyrgios, who saved a match point in coming back from two sets down yesterday to beat Andreas Seppi 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 8-6, is the first male teenager since Roger Federer in 2001 to reach two Grand Slam quarter-finals. He made the same stage last summer at Wimbledon, where he caused a major upset by beating Rafael Nadal.
Kyrgios is also the first teenager to reach the last eight here since Andrei Cherkasov in 1990 and the first Australian of any age to make the quarter-finals for 10 years.
Murray, who beat Kyrgios for the loss of just four games in their only meeting in Toronto last summer, knows that the vast majority of the crowd will be on his opponent’s side tomorrow but added: “I’ve played against French players at the French Open, where the crowd can be very difficult. I’ve experienced it before, so hopefully I’ll deal with it well.”
Asked if he was prepared to break Australian hearts, Murray said: “I plan on trying to beat Nick. I’m not planning on trying to break anybody’s hearts. This is tennis. This is sport. All I’m trying to do is beat the guy on the other side of the net.”
Murray has felt in good shape and good form since the start of the season and played some of his best tennis since undergoing back surgery 16 months ago to beat the man who ended the defence of his Wimbledon crown last summer. The two players treated the crowd to a thriller that lasted for more than three-and-a-half hours and finished after midnight. It was a contest full of pulsating rallies as both men covered the court with great speed and agility.
“I didn’t feel tired, I felt fresh, my back felt good, I wasn’t feeling stiff at all,” Murray said. “Physically I felt completely different to how I felt at the US Open last year or even here last year when I played a long match, especially in cold conditions.”
The crowd in the Rod Laver Arena, which is the main show court, gave good support to both men, but the frequent sound of roars from the nearby Hisense Arena, where Kyrgios was beating Seppi, left the feeling that this was not the biggest act in town. Remarkably, neither Kyrgios nor Bernard Tomic, who was the other remaining Australian until his straight-sets defeat yesterday by Tomas Berdych, who now meets Nadal, have played in Rod Laver Arena yet this year. Tomic thinks the scheduling has been “ridiculous”.
Murray has been trying to dictate more rallies this year, but it was Dimitrov who came out with all guns blazing. He went 3-0 up, but Murray kept his cool, played his own game and was soon level at 3-3. The Scot broke again at 4-4 and served out for the first set with an ace.
The match was being played at an electrifying pace and both men were probably grateful at 3-3 in the second set when they had to wait for the noise to subside as the crowd joined in the celebrations of Kyrgios’ victory.
Murray should have taken the second set but was broken when serving at 6-5 and then played a poor tie-break. The Scot threw his racket to the floor at the changeover, berating himself for letting the set slip away, but his response was excellent. Piling on the pressure, he forced four break points in the fourth game of the third set and three more in the eighth before finally making the breakthrough.
Dimitrov, who had been taken to five sets in his previous match, was starting to show signs of fatigue. Although the Bulgarian went 3-0 up in the fourth, Murray held firm. Dimitrov, pushing too hard, made some crucial mistakes when he served for the set at 5-3 and at 5-5 he was broken to love, upon which he broke his racket in spectacular fashion by hurling it to the floor.
Murray took the match by winning his fifth game in a row, though the way the contest ended was cruel as his forehand hit the top of the net and toppled over on to the world No 11’s side of the court.
The only time Murray appeared in any discomfort was in his on-court interview at the end, when he was asked whether he would be wearing a kilt or a morning suit at his wedding later this year. The Scot said he would keep both options open and “see what I feel like in the morning when I wake up.”
Asked if he would be going “freeball” (presumably a reference to the Scottish tradition of wearing no underwear beneath a kilt), Murray replied: “Exactly.”Reuse content