Andy Murray’s attempt to win the Cincinnati Masters for a third time is still on track but the Scot had to save two match points before beating John Isner in the third round. A match which featured only one break of serve ended with Murray completing a 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 victory over the 6ft 10in American after two hours and 22 minutes.
Murray considers Isner’s serve to be the best in the game. The world No 14, who had not been broken in his previous two matches, served at speeds of more than 140mph and struck 21 aces, but Murray’s serve was equally effective.
The only time it let the Scot down was when he made two successive double faults as he served at 5-6 and 30-15 in the deciding set. Isner netted a volley on his subsequent match point and was outrallied when he had a second opportunity for victory later in the same game.
Murray had let the tie-break in the opening set slip from his grasp, losing six points in a row from 3-1 up, but kept his focus second time around. He won the deciding tie-break 7-2, Isner double-faulting on match point. In today’s quarter-finals Murray will play the winner of the match between Roger Federer and Gaël Monfils.
“The 6-5 game was tough,” Murray said afterwards. “The sun was in our eyes when we were throwing the ball up to serve. Ideally you want to try to get some free points on your serve, but you can’t really see the ball when you throw it up. I missed a couple of second serves – one in the tape and one just long.
“But I played well. I struck the ball cleanly from the back of the court. I dictated as many points as I could on my own serve and I managed to get a few more balls in the court than him in the tie-break - and that was the difference.”
He added: “It was a big win for me. He plays extremely well here. Returning his serve, especially his second serve in these conditions, is very challenging. I did well to fight back. I felt like I played a very good match. I served well and moved well. When I was challenged at the end of the third set I responded well. That’s important. It’s all about winning right now. I don’t really care how I play.” Murray dropped only three points in his six service games in the first set and must have wondered how he could have let it slip away from him.
However, his response at the start of the second set was exemplary. In the opening game he forced five break points, converting the last of them, and went on to serve out for the set. The only break points in the third set were the two Murray saved in the 12th game.
Murray’s chances of winning his first tournament for 13 months rose when Novak Djokovic suffered his second successive early defeat since his Wimbledon triumph. The world No 1, who needed to win the Cincinnati tournament to complete his collection of Masters Series titles, was beaten 7-6, 7-5 by Spain’s Tommy Robredo.