Murray finds prime form for Nadal test

Scot dismisses last year's nemesis Chela to set up dream contest against world No 2

Brad Gilbert, Andy Murray's coach, was beaming. "A year ago he was a kid," Gilbert said after his charge's emphatic three-set victory over Juan Ignacio Chela in the third round of the Australian Open here last night. "Now he's a professional."

Murray's 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory over the Argentinian was encouraging confirmation of the huge strides he has made since being swept aside by the same opponent in the same Vodafone Arena in the first round 12 months ago. Murray, the world No 16, is through to the fourth round of his third Grand Slam tournament in succession, though his next challenge is a formidable one.

The 19-year-old Scot's last-16 opponent tomorrow will be Rafael Nadal, the world No 2, who enjoyed a resounding victory yesterday over Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka. The match will almost certainly be the showcase night match in the main Rod Laver Arena. "Andy was born to play on centre court, not on court 18," Gilbert said approvingly.

Last night's match did not start until 9.30pm, having been switched indoors after rain washed out play on every court bar the two with retractable roofs. The 10,000-capacity Vodafone Arena was less than a quarter full, but there were plenty of Scottish and Union flags, not to mention loud vocal support.

From the moment he broke serve in the sixth game Murray was in command. He served smartly and quickly found his range on his groundstrokes, frequently unsettling Chela with sudden injections of pace. There were tantalising drop shots, a succession of thumping winners from both flanks and even a smattering of winning volleys. Chela is a decent striker of the ball, but Murray's speed around the court cut down the world No 33's flow of winners.

Chela's first break points did not come until the fourth game of the second set, but Murray responded by holding serve with four superb points in succession: two aces, a forehand drilled into the corner with pinpoint accuracy and, best of all, a beautifully constructed exchange rounded off by a winning volley. Chela broke twice in the third set but was never in front.

"I was really happy with the way I played," Murray said. "I served great the whole match and hit a lot of winners. I made a few too many errors in the first set on his service games, but once I started to find my range from the ground I started making him do a lot of running."

Murray, who has yet to drop a set here this year, has already beaten five of the world's top 10 - Roger Federer, Nikolai Davydenko, Ivan Ljubicic, Andy Roddick and Fernando Gonzalez - but has never played Nadal. At the end of last year he said the Spaniard was the opponent he most wanted to face in 2007.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said last night. "He's a very good player, someone I respect a lot. He plays very well on these courts and it's going to be a good test for me to see how I do against him. If I play like I did tonight, it's going to be a close match."

Nadal, who is Murray's third Spanish opponent after Alberto Martin and Fernando Verdasco, has had a comparatively lean time since last summer. He has not won a tournament since the French Open and has not reached a final since Wimbledon.

However, his 6-2 6-2 6-2 victory over Wawrinka - watched by Gilbert - indicated he might be running into the form he showed in dominating the last two clay-court seasons. Nadal described it as his best performance of the year. Regularly running round his backhand in order to fire his cannonball forehand, he had far too much power for his Swiss opponent, who is the world No 40.

Gilbert said he would devise a gameplan with Murray today. "Nadal's a tough ask but Andy is playing well enough to take on anyone," he said. "Nadal is as good a place as anywhere for you to assess where you're at."

What does Nadal make of his next opponent? "Murray's improving his game," he said. "He's very young, just one year younger than me. He started the season well in Doha. I'd say he's a very good player who can be one of the best in the world. In fact, he's one of the best in the world right now."

The weather forecast for tomorrow is better, which should mean that the match will be played outdoors. Nadal has played all three of his matches so far under cover, while two of Murray's three have been indoors. Strangely, all four of the matches Murray has played in Melbourne have been on the same court.

All Australian interest in the singles competitions ended last night when Lleyton Hewitt was beaten in four sets by Gonzalez, Alicia Molik having lost to Patty Schnyder earlier in the evening. Gonzalez now plays James Blake, who wasted little time disposing of his fellow American Robby Ginepri.

David Nalbandian reinforced his reputation as the comeback king by saving match points and winning from two sets down for the second time in three matches to beat Sébastien Grosjean 5-7 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-1.

Grosjean said that a long-term groin injury meant his only chance had been to win in three sets. Such a victory seemed certain when Nalbandian reached 0-40 on his own serve at 4-5 and two sets down. However, he saved the three match points and went on to win the tie-break and the last two sets.

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick