Murray is ready to steal thunder of hurricane Ernesto

Briton on top of his game believes he has the self-confidence as well as the form to go far
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The Independent Online

Hurricane Ernesto, which was downgraded last week to a mere "tropical depression", was threatening to wipe out the whole day's play here yesterday at a rain-soaked US Open but it should have left by the end of the weekend.

Hurricane Andy, who has brought a depression over some of his opponents in recent weeks, will be hoping to hang around a little longer. Andy Murray says he is playing the best tennis of his life and victory in his next match could open up his quarter of the draw in his favourite Grand Slam tournament.

Murray's reward for a crushing 6-0 6-1 6-1 victory over Alessio Di Mauro on Friday is a third-round meeting with the 10 seed, Fernando Gonzalez. The Chilean is in fine form, but after Murray's recent run the 19-year-old Scot believes he has the game to beat anybody. If he can carry on winning, his likely opponents are Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian and, in the semi-finals, Roger Federer, whom he beat in Cincinnati last month.

Gonzalez broke into the top 10 for the first time earlier this year. He is without a title in 2006 but won three in his most successful campaign last year, including the Basle tournament, where he beat Murray in three sets in their only previous meeting.

The 26-year-old Chilean, who usually enjoys vociferous support, has reached three successive semi-finals on the North American hard-court circuit this summer at Los Angeles, Toronto and Cincinnati. In the latter two, both Masters series tournaments, he lost to the eventual winners, Federer and Andy Roddick.

"He's had a really, really good summer and it's not a match that I'm expected to win," Murray said. "He's the higher-ranked player and he has more experience. This is only the first time I've been in the third round of a Slam outside Wimbledon, but I'm feeling pretty good about my game."

Murray has never doubted his own ability and the win over Federer has strengthened his self-confidence. "Before I probably thought I could beat everybody except him," Murray said. "Until you win against a guy like that there's always a bit of doubt in the back of your mind whether you can win against him. I always believed I could, but until you actually do it you never know if it's quite possible.

"Now I feel that I can win consistently against the best players in the world. It's just a matter of keeping it up for two weeks. I've never had to do it in a Grand Slam before. It's a question of managing my off-days here and getting myself in the best shape for my matches."

Brad Gilbert, Murray's new coach, believes the British No 1's most pressing need is to improve his strength. Murray felt exhausted at the end of 14 matches in 17 days recently, although he rightly points out that he still managed to reach a final, semi-final and quarter-final in his three tournaments during that run.

"I think I'm in good shape, but I just need to mature a little bit more physically," Murray said. "Maybe my muscles aren't as strong as they should be. I need to work harder at that and I'll definitely do that over the winter. That's one thing that I want to get absolutely perfect going into next year. I don't want to have any matches where I come off the court having cramped, because it's embarrassing. I don't like it.

"I don't like people saying that I don't work hard. I don't like it when people question my dedication to tennis. I can't handle that at all. I don't think it's fair.

"At the end of this year I'm going to work harder than I've ever worked before. After this year I hope I won't cramp again for the rest of my life."

He added: "I just think people need to understand that cramping happens to young players. People get tired sometimes. And the way that I play is quite physical. I do a lot of running. I run for every single ball. I don't give up on points.

"I've won two five-set matches. I've proved I can win over five sets. I just need to have maybe a little bit more stamina and to work that little bit harder. Hopefully that will get me into the top 10."

Tim Henman, whose campaign here ended on Friday in a straight-sets defeat to Federer, believes that sheer physical strength is now a major factor in tennis.

"On a daily basis I look at other players and I just can't quite believe my eyes sometimes," he said. "There are techniques and shots being hit that you just don't think are possible. That's from a technical point of view, but you also look at the way that guys move now and how demanding it is physically. It's just changed so, so much."