Murray hits new career high with epic victory over Federer

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The Independent Online

Scotland's Andy Murray produced the best performance of his young career when he first outplayed then claimed a straight sets victory over world No 1 Roger Federer in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters yesterday.

The 19-year-old played brilliant tennis to become only the second player to defeat Federer in 2006 - after French Open champion Rafael Nadal who has beaten him on four occasions. Federer had won his previous 19 matches and it was the first time that Federer had been beaten before a final in 14 months.

Murray broke Federer's serve an astonishing seven times in a 7-5, 6-4 victory that came barely two weeks after he linked up with his new coach Brad Gilbert, the man who steered Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick to grand slam triumphs. Gilbert was watching from the stands.

After the winning point, Murray calmly removed the sweatband from his head and went to the net to shake Federer's hand. "I don't know what to say," Murray said. "I didn't know how to react at the end because I definitely was not planning on winning the match."

Of his partnership with Gilbert, Murray said: "He believes in me, I believe in him. We got the tactics right today. Having him in your corner is special. There's not too many people around like him. He is definitely one of the best coaches in the world. He stays positive all the time and has 100 per cent belief I can become world No 1 and win a grand slam.

"I wasn't expected to win but I think I proved to a lot of people I can be good player and possibly even a great player. I don't think he [Federer] played his best match today but it was a great effort to come through. I was getting tired at 2-2 in the second set. I had a long match with Tim [Henman] yesterday, it was hot here, and I was obviously a little bit nervous and I've played a lot of matches. It's something that you always dream of, winning against a guy like Federer, and it's special when it does happen."

The US Open begins on Monday week and Murray plans to take next week off to ensure he begins the year's final grand slam refreshed. But today Murray takes on either Dmitry Tursunov or Robbie Ginepri for a place in the Cincinnati quarter-finals.

The Scot had plenty of help from Federer yesterday, who had not lost on the American continent since Dominik Hrbaty beat him in the first round at the Cincinnati Masters on 3 August 2004. Federer had not lost in straight sets in his last 194 matches.

It was also Murray's first victory over Federer, who prevailed when the Scot contested his first ATP final in Bangkok last October, their only previous meeting.

The Scot's progress has been beyond what Murray, Gilbert and the Lawn Tennis Association, who have provided funding to bring Gilbert on board, could have wished for. In a match which featured 12 breaks of serve, Murray sealed victory with a breathtaking backhand pass beyond his illustrious opponent. Murray had break points in Federer's opening two service games. An attempted pass fell just wide on his first chance, but Murray benefited from a slightly wayward Federer backhand on the next.

The advantage lasted just two games, nevertheless the young Scot looked sufficiently confident to rally with Federer from the baseline. He moved to break point at advantage in Federer's next service game, and a driven backhand from mid-court arrowed past the more senior man. Federer broke back immediately.

The abundance of second serves allowed for longer rallies. A Federer ace was opportune, but the Swiss then netted a forehand to give Murray a third break point of the game, and this time the 25-year-old double-faulted. Murray, at 5-4, was serving for the set but in keeping with the theme of the set dropped his game to 15. Again he went to advantage on the Federer serve, and again a double fault gifted Murray the game and this time a 6-5 lead. By this stage Federer had received a warning for ball abuse, and his usually ice-cool temperament was failing him. An ace at 40-30 gave Murray the set.

He had three break points in the first game of the second set, and pounced for the third of them when Federer drifted a backhand beyond the baseline. Federer was soon back on level terms, then for four games the serves held. The pair then exchanged breaks, Murray seeing his momentary advantage wiped out as Federer drew level at 4-4.

Murray had easily the more penetrating backhand of the two, and one scorching example set up a break point in the next Federer service game. Federer saved that, but Murray soon had his nose back in front at 5-4, his shot-making just too fierce. At 5-4, victory was in sight, and a near-perfect service game secured an unforgettable victory.

Earlier Greg Rusedski said he believes Murray is already benefiting from Gilbert's advice. Rusedski said: "I could see the improvement already just last week in Toronto. Brad is quite a clever tactician and he's really got Andy playing a lot better."

Rise and rise of Andy Murray

2005

June Beats 14th seed Radek Stepanek to become first Scottish player to reach the third round at Wimbledon.

October Reaches first ATP final, losing to world No 1 Roger Federer in the Thailand Open.

2006

February Wins first ATP Tour title, beating Lleyton Hewitt in SAP Open final, having also beaten Andy Roddick in the semi-finals.

February Becomes Britain's No 1, overtaking Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski.

July Reaches last 16 at Wimbledon with straight-sets win over Roddick, before losing to No 18 seed Marcos Baghdatis.

July Brad Gilbert confirmed as new coach.

August Loses final of the Legg Mason Classic in Washington and reaches his first Masters series semi-final in Toronto.

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