You could have been forgiven for thinking that little had changed in Andy Murray’s world as the 26-year-old Scot continued the defence of his Miami Masters title in impressive fashion on Sunday.
Ivan Lendl looked on approvingly from the sidelines as the man he guided to two Grand Slam titles brushed aside the familiar challenge of Feliciano Lopez. Murray, who has never lost to Lopez in nine meetings, won 6-4, 6-1 in just 73 minutes with a performance full of bold ball-striking and cleverly constructed rallies.
The only clue that all might not have been as it seemed was the fact that Lendl often had a smile on his face. Until last week’s announcement that the two men had parted company, Lendl generally watched Murray’s matches with an unchanging, stone-faced expression.
The former coach’s presence at Crandon Park – he sat next to Dani Vallverdu, Murray’s long-term friend and hitting partner – underlined the fact that there was no rancour in their split. Lendl, who wants to devote more time to his own projects, was clearly keen to demonstrate his continued friendship with the Wimbledon champion.
Whether or not it had anything to do with Lendl’s presence, Murray gave one of his most convincing performances since beginning his return from back surgery at the end of last year.
Murray had been taken to three sets in seven of his previous eight matches and had dropped the first set in five of them, but he rarely looked back after breaking Lopez to love in the opening game. The Spaniard has had back problems of his own recently and never got going.
With the temperature climbing above 30C and ice packs the order of the day at the change of ends, Murray never lost his cool. He dropped serve only once, when he mishit a series of backhands in the second game, and regularly had Lopez in trouble with the quality of his returns.
At 2-2 in the first set Murray broke to love for a second time, Lopez hitting a double-fault at 0-40. The world No 6 served out for the set after 44 minutes when Lopez netted a backhand. Murray kept up the pressure by breaking serve in the opening game of the second set. The Scot had made 18 unforced errors in the first set but added only four in the second as his consistent ball-striking had Lopez under constant pressure.
The Scot broke again to lead 4-1 and made his fifth break of the match in the final game, putting the Spaniard out of his misery with a smart backhand return winner. Murray now plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who came from behind to beat Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 after more than two and a half hours.
The impression that Murray is feeling at ease with himself, despite his disappointment at the split with Lendl, was emphasised at the end when he signed one of the on-court television cameras. His message read: “Relax – all is good.”
Miami is one of the few titles to have eluded Rafael Nadal, but the world No 1 has reached the final three times and launched his latest campaign in emphatic fashion by beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-3 in just over an hour. Nadal, who has won a record 25 Masters Series titles, now faces Denis Istomin, of Uzbekistan. Novak Djokovic is already through to the fourth round thanks to Florian Mayer’s withdrawal because of a groin injury. The Serb next plays Tommy Robredo, who progressed with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Julien Benneteau.
Stanislas Wawrinka, the Australian Open champion, recovered from a poor second set to beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, but Marin Cilic, one of the form players of recent weeks, suffered a surprising 6-2, 7-6 defeat at the hands of France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Serena Williams, playing her first tournament for a month, laboured to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory over France’s Caroline Garcia as she continued her quest for a record seventh Miami title.
“I can play a hundred times better,” Williams said after making 41 unforced errors, including seven double-faults. “I really gave myself a tremendous amount of trouble out there. Granted, she played great, but I made so many errors. It’s not the way to play professional tennis. Maybe amateur.”
Maria Sharapova needed nine match points and three hours to see off Lucie Safarova. The Russian won 6-4, 6-7, 6-2, but only after Safarova, going for broke, had saved two match points in the tie-break and seven more in the final game. “She kept hitting unbelievable shots,” Sharapova said.
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