Murray into second week with fine win


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The Independent Online

Andy Murray felt Michael Llodra was the perfect opponent for him to show off his full repertoire of skills as he made impressive progress into the second week of the Australian Open.

Left-hander Llodra was happy to provide Murray with a target as he rushed the net time and again. And more often than not Murray found the pass to win the third round clash 6-4 6-2 6-0 and progress into a last-16 encounter with Mikhail Kukushkin.

In a match full of inventive shot-making and entertaining rallies, Murray was in his element.

Powerful and accurate off the ground, he also displayed a deft touch at the net. Allied with a fine serving display, this was Murray approaching his best.

And yet the most impressive statistic was that despite both players seemingly keen to show a flamboyant side, the Scot made just 11 unforced errors.

"It was good tonight," said Murray. "It was tough for a set and a half, a tough match.

"He put a lot of pressure on my serve and came to the net a lot. I had to save quite a few games where he had break points or 30-all.

"But once I got up a double break in the second we played some entertaining rallies and fun points.

"I played well and it was enjoyable."

Having grown up facing his brother Jamie's swinging left-handed serve, Murray was hardly short of ideas in dealing with Llodra's.

"It's tricky but I have always played well against lefties," he added.

"I've enjoyed playing against guys that come forward too. So it was a good match-up for me.

"But he's very good at what he does, he volleys very well."

Murray has improved in each of his matches in Melbourne as he bids to reach a third successive final here.

"My movement was way better than the first two matches," he said. "I moved great tonight.

"That's a good sign for me because when I move well the rest of my game goes well. That was the most pleasing thing for me tonight.

"But I need to keep improving, do things a bit better each round."

It is hard to imagine Murray can improve much on this display as, despite one or two nervous moments on serve in the first set, he was in total control.

Llodra, the world number 46 declared beforehand his "only option" was to attack but it was a policy which looked doomed to fail from the early stages.

Murray broke for a 2-1 lead in the first set, thanks largely to two sublime backhands, and although the Frenchman threatened to hit back in each of Murray's next three service games, the fourth seed held on to take the opener.

Llodra's frustration increased when Murray turned on the style in the opening game of the second set, a raft of clever passing shots handing him a break to press home his advantage.

And it got no better for the Frenchman when, having held for 1-2, he called a medical time out to have his right knee taped.

By now Murray was in full flow and Llodra was having a hard time clinging on to his coat tails.

He managed to remain just one break adrift, though, despite Murray drilling a short ball at his back when he could have gone either side - a shot which would, no doubt, have brought a nod of approval from Murray's new coach Ivan Lendl although the Czech may not have approved of the apologetic hug which followed.

But Murray maintained his intensity, another break moving him 5-2 up and he held his nerve in the next game, which featured numerous enthralling rallies and finished with the Frenchman throwing his towel at his opponent in mock irritation, to establish a two-set advantage.

Llodra is renowned as one of the biggest jokers on tour with his most notorious prank seeing him strip naked and hide in Ivan Ljubicic's locker at an event in Miami before jumping out to surprise the stunned Croatian.

But he was starting to look exposed on Melbourne Park's second showcourt as Murray upped the ante further in the third.

Three breaks saw him race into a 5-0 lead and he had no problems in serving it out.