Fired-up Murray roars back into form

Scintillating Scot dismantles Simon to set up clash with Querrey for place in quarter-final
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The Independent Online

Even amid the applause of a jubilant Centre Court crowd, Andy Murray's roar of celebration could be heard all around the stadium. After shaking hands with Gilles Simon following his emphatic 6-1 6-4 6-4 third-round victory, Murray stood in the middle of the court and bellowed out a huge: "Come on!"

Murray's third consecutive straight-sets victory of the week was completed in an hour and 50 minutes and featured some thrilling play by the 23-year-old Scot. Simon, who has dropped 26 places in the world rankings from a career-high No 6 after suffering a serious knee injury, was outplayed from start to finish. His smile at the end almost suggested that he had enjoyed watching Murray's display as much as the crowd. It was Murray's 20th consecutive victory over French opposition.

The last four months since his defeat to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final have not been easy for the Scot, but after a run of eight tournaments which have yielded just two quarter-final appearances he is playing his way back into form. There had been a spark missing from his game in recent times, but his old self-assurance seems to be returning.

Some of Murray's play – from drop shots and volleyed lobs to thunderous backhands and booming serves – was a joy to watch. For the second match in succession he did not drop his serve (indeed he has been broken only once all tournament), while 36 winners and only 18 unforced errors told their own story.

In tomorrow's fourth round he will play the American Sam Querrey in the third match on Centre Court. Querrey, who won the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club a fortnight ago, beat Xavier Malisse 6-7 6-4 6-2 5-7 9-7 in a match that finished at 9.22pm in near darkness on Court One. Murray has won all three of their previous meetings.

Murray and Simon were delayed by Rafael Nadal's laboured five-set victory over Philipp Petzschner, but by the time they started, just after 7pm, the conditions – warm, still and with the Centre Court mostly in shade beneath a cloudless sky – could hardly have been better.

On Wimbledon's middle Saturday sporting superstars past and present are invited into the Royal Box, but when the first ball was struck only 10 of the seats were occupied. Sir Chris Hoy, at least, was on hand to support his fellow Scot, having sent him a message of encouragement earlier on.

Simon's head-to-head record against Federer is an indication of his talent – he has won their only two meetings – but he has had a difficult last 12 months. He has played in only six tour-level events this year, in four of which he has lost in the first round.

The Frenchman was in trouble from the moment Murray hit a 131mph ace on the very first point. Four successive errors saw Simon drop his first service game to love and after another break in the sixth game Murray took the set in just 23 minutes with an exquisite drop shot.

The Scot served out for the second set after breaking serve in the opening game. It was not until the second game of the third set that Simon got to deuce (but no further) on the Murray serve for the first and only time in the match.

By this stage Murray was starting to play some champagne tennis. A wonderful improvised lob after an exchange of drop shots won one point, while another ended with Simon lying on the ground in disbelief after Murray had hurtled from one corner of the court to the other to hit a glorious forehand winner, having chased down what looked to be a winning volley.

Murray's play had the crowd in an increasingly festive mood, though Simon, upping his own game, clung on. With the evening starting to close in, there was a possibility that the players would have to take a break while the roof was closed, enabling the match to be completed under artificial light, but at 4-4 Murray broke again. The world No 4 wasted little time completing victory in the following game with his 15th ace of the match.

"It was really good," Murray said. "I haven't lost a set and I haven't lost my serve since my second service game of the first match. Tonight was tough because it was getting pretty dark near the end. If I hadn't managed to close it out in that third set we would have had to go off and wait for the roof to go on. I was a little tentative around 3-3, but I played really well."

Murray said Querrey would provide a tough test. "He's a very good player," he said. "He's got a big serve – bigger than the guys that I've played so far – and a slightly more unpredictable game. The rallies will probably be a bit shorter, but I've played well against him in the past."