Murray adds scalp of Ljubicic to hit list

Andy Murray tries to keep both outstanding victories and unexpected defeats in perspective, but there was no disguising his pleasure after his victory over Ivan Ljubicic, the world No 3, in the second round of the Madrid Masters here yesterday. Murray won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 against an opponent he regards as the second best indoor player in the world behind Roger Federer.

Ljubicic, one of the hardest hitters and most consistent performers, has won more matches under cover than anyone else over the last two years and had started the current indoor campaign by reaching the final in Bangkok and winning in Vienna. Murray, however, stood firm in the face of the 27-year-old Croat's power and won with an excellent all-round display.

While it cannot equal the impact of his straight-sets victory over Federer in Cincinnati two months ago, this triumph underlined Murray's progress, particularly since Brad Gilbert's appointment as his coach. Among the other scalps he has claimed this year are those of Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Fernando Gonzalez.

"To win against a guy who is No 3 in the world is a huge win for me," Murray said. "Playing against guys in the top 10 in the world is a great test. A win like today makes me feel like I can get to the level they're at. It's a good benchmark."

Murray's world ranking, currently at No 19, is certain to receive another boost next week and this win maintains his outside chance of earning a place in the end-of-season Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai.

It is proving a good week for the British, with Tim Henman also through to today's third round, in which he faces David Nalbandian, the world No 4. Murray plays Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, one of his best friends on the tour, who is one week younger and two places higher in the rankings. They played each other regularly on the junior circuit, but this will be their first meeting as seniors.

Murray said he regarded Djokovic as the favourite to win, though he had said the same, understandably, about Ljubicic. The Croat did not drop his heavyweight serve once in his last tournament and on the fast court here and in the slightly thinner air (Madrid is 650 metres above sea level) most players have trouble returning the ball against him. He reached last year's final, losing to Rafael Nadal in a fifth set tie-break.

Murray had failed to win a match in his previous two tournaments but came here refreshed, whereas Ljubicic had a demanding week in Vienna. The Croat played some tired shots, though credit had to go to Murray for wearing down his opponent.

The British No 1 returned consistently and served well on the rare occasions when he got into trouble. He was particularly pleased with his volleying, which is becoming an increasingly productive part of his game.

"Against some guys it's really difficult to work out the tactics, but it's not that difficult against Ljubicic," Murray said. "You just try and hold on to your own serve and try and get his back and see what happens."

Murray had already threatened Ljubicic's serve before he made the vital first break in the ninth game. Ljubicic had been regularly outwitted by Murray's drop shots in the first set, but started to read his game more easily in the second. He served out after taking a 3-0 lead, but Murray still had chances to break back and maintained the pressure in the final set.

The Scot made the decisive breakthrough in the eighth game, taking his first break point with an excellent forehand winner. In the next game he converted his first match point with an ace.

Murray has yet to play here in an evening match, where the ball-girls are all models. "As I was walking off the court, the models were waiting to go on for Ferrero's match," he said. "It's a little disappointing, though maybe I'm concentrating better in my matches than I might have done."

The models were on parade for Nadal's first match, a routine straight-sets victory over Mardy Fish that was watched by a large contingent of Real Madrid players, including the former England captain David Beckham. There were early exits, however, for James Blake and Mario Ancic, beaten by Kristof Vliegen and Robby Ginepri respectively.

Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn