After his five-set marathon against Robin Haase in the second round Andy Murray was grateful for a much more straightforward passage into the last 16 here tonight.
The 24-year-old Scot beat Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in less than two hours to earn a fourth-round meeting with the American, Donald Young.
Murray had lost only one set in his five previous meetings with Lopez and rarely looked in danger of conceding another one here. Although the Spaniard recovered after a dreadful start to force a competitive second set, he was a beaten man well before the finish.
Lopez has a big serve, but in Murray he was facing an opponent with one of the best returns in the business. The world No 4 broke serve five times, while Lopez had just two break points in the whole match. Murray served consistently, putting 76 per cent of his first serves in court as he targeted Lopez's backhand, and made just 16 unforced errors compared with his opponent’s 44.
The match was played in front of a full house in the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium. It had been a hot and steamy day, but the temperature had cooled in time for the 7pm start and the conditions would have been nearly perfect but for a stiff breeze.
Murray, dressed in black from head to toe, started superbly, winning 14 points in a row. When the Scot finally put a backhand wide as Lopez served at 0-3 and 0-30 the crowd raised an ironic cheer. The 29-year-old Spaniard, who hit two double faults in his opening service game, got on the scoreboard at 3-1 but Murray took the set in 26 minutes without dropping a point on his serve.
At least Lopez made a match of it in the second set. However, the world No 26 put a forehand long on his first break point in the second game and Murray saved the second in the sixth game with a service winner. By this stage the crowd were getting behind the Spaniard in the hope of seeing a more competitive contest, but at 4-4 Lopez hit a double fault on break point and Murray served out for the set.
When the Scot broke to love in the opening game of the third set it was clear that the end would not be far away. Murray broke again to lead 5-2 and hit a service winner on his first match point in the following game. It is the fourth time Murray has reached the fourth round here and continues his excellent results in Grand Slam tournaments this year.
“They were very tough conditions at the start,” Murray said afterwards. “It was pretty windy. I had to get the feet going early. When you can get an early break it can set the tone for the rest of the match. Tonight that was the case. And after having a long match the other day, you don't want to play a three-hour or four-hour match, especially playing late at night, because it's not that easy to recover.
“He’s not an easy guy to play against. In the second set he had a few chances and I had quite a few chances. He makes it very difficult for guys because he comes up with big serves. He serve and volleys sometimes. He does make quite a few mistakes at times, but he just plays so different to anyone else nowadays. I've always quite enjoyed playing against guys that have come forward against me, but I think for a lot of other players it's different because you don't see it very often. That's probably why he's been a difficult guy for a lot of players over the last 10 years.”
Murray has played Young only once before, when the 22-year-old American won in straight sets in Indian Wells earlier this year during the Scot’s post-Australian Open slump. Young is through to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.
“He's talented, so he can hit winners from all parts of the court,” Murray said. “He comes forward pretty well, he volleys well, he's got nice feel around the net, and he's got quite easy power which can be sometimes difficult. Guys look like they're not winding up to hit a big shot, and he can create quite a lot of power. He's got a big first serve when he goes for it, but he can be a little bit inconsistent as well.”