Murray moves quickly into gear to set up Roddick clash

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A tumultuous year for Andy Murray will turn full circle for the 19-year-old Scot this afternoon. In today's third round here Murray faces Andy Roddick, runner-up for the last two years, hoping to go one better than 12 months ago, when his senior debut at Wimbledon ended at the same stage on the middle Saturday in a five-set thriller against another major contender, David Nalbandian. Once again, Murray is the last Briton left in either of the singles competitions.

The British No 2 needed only 26 minutes to complete a 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 second-round victory over Julien Benneteau yesterday, the match having been held over from Thursday night, when Murray lost the third set after holding a 4-2 lead.

When Benneteau, the world No 55, held serve to love in the first game of the fourth set and Murray promptly served his first double fault of the match the Centre Court crowd might have feared the worst. The Scot served out to level at 1-1, however, and once he had got out of first gear there was no stopping him.

Murray broke Benneteau to 15 in the next game and thereafter the Frenchman, once again making a series of forehand errors, had no answer to the Scot's subtle variations in pace. Murray, playing safe on his backhand but whipping a series of forehand winners into the corners, barely made a mistake.

"I think he was a bit nervous today and I didn't make too many mistakes - I took every opportunity," Murray said. "I thought I played really well the whole match. I got a bit unlucky when he got a lucky netcord at 5-4 and 30-30 in the third set last night."

Roger Federer, who is chasing a fourth successive title here, considers Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt to be his most dangerous challengers but while there can be no disputing Roddick's grass-court pedigree, the American has had an indifferent year. Earlier this month he failed in his attempt to win a fourth successive Stella Artois title when he was beaten by James Blake in the quarter-finals.

Although Murray's progress has faltered in the last four months - he has been troubled by injuries and has been without a coach since dispensing with the services of Mark Petchey at Easter - his performances here against Chile's Nicolas Massu in the first round and Benneteau have been from the top drawer.

The Scot himself believes he is at the top of his game. "I think I've been playing my best tennis over the last two months," he said.

"I'm hitting the ball well. When I go for it it always feels like the ball is going to drop in."

Murray's patchy spring campaign had followed an excellent run in America, where he won his first senior ATP title. He beat Hewitt in the final of the San Jose tournament, having overcome Roddick in the previous round. It was his only previous match against the American.

"I felt like I got passed a lot," Roddick said as he looked forward to today's match. "If I remember the match correctly, I didn't serve well and I was spraying my forehands a little bit, which you can't do against him. He's a pretty consistent player. He's not going to give anything to you. It makes for a long day at the office.

"I just need to be aggressive. I think I only got in about 42 or 43 per cent of first serves in that match. He returned well, but he was getting a lot of looks. It will be important for me to up that figure. I served pretty well at Queen's and in my first two matches here. If I keep that up, hopefully it will affect his returns.

"He's a good player. He's got a great feel for the game. He hits a lot of drop shots. He competes pretty well. He does everything pretty well."

Murray, who has already proved many times in his short career that he relishes the big occasion, recognises the size of his task today but will not be overawed.

"It's a huge match to play against Andy Roddick," Murray said. "He's been a runner-up here twice, he's a former world No 1 and he's won a Grand Slam tournament. It's an honour to be on the same court as him.

"This is his best surface and I'll have to play at my best to keep close to him."

The match will be given extra spice by the fact that Brad Gilbert, the man Murray wants to employ as his new coach, worked with Roddick when he won the 2003 US Open. They parted company two years ago.

Roddick, who had the luxury of a day off yesterday after completing a 69-minute victory over Germany's Florian Mayer the previous night, was asked what he thought about the prospect of his former coach working with Murray.

"I think Brad would help a lot of people, especially someone young and impressionable, but there are logistical problems unless he's willing to move - and I know Brad's not," he said. "He has a family at home. It's a nice thought, but they would have to make it work logistically."

Roddick added: "Brad's a great coach, no doubt about it, but if California [where Gilbert lives] and Texas [where Roddick lives] are far apart, California and and Ireland are a lot further apart."

For the American's sake, you hope his tennis will be better than his geography this afternoon.