Murray out to dent Taylor's confidence
World No 2 must overcome gruelling schedule to reach final – but first he faces an all-American hero today
Sunday 06 September 2009
It has been a long fortnight for Andy Murray. The world No 2 arrived here two Sundays ago, but has played only two matches since the start of the US Open on Monday. If he emulates his performance of 12 months ago in reaching the final he will be in for a busy week, starting with today's third-round meeting with the American Taylor Dent.
"It's basically five matches in eight days," Murray said. "The scheduling can be tough here. It's worse for the guys who play [their first match] on Wednesday because, in theory, they're playing seven matches in 12 days, while the guys who play on Monday are playing seven matches in 14. And I would sign up for the seven in 14 days."
Murray was not feeling at his best during his four-set victory over Paul Capdeville on Friday – he felt sick during the second set before recovering to win with something to spare – but should have an advantage over Dent, who needed four and a quarter hours to beat Ivan Navarro in front of a passionate crowd on Grandstand Court.
Dent, mind you, knows a thing or two about recovering from physical difficulties. The 28-year-old American was out of the game for two years after breaking vertebrae in his back in 2006. He had two operations and spent eight months lying in bed in a body cast, having been told he would never play tennis again.
At the start of last year, however, doctors said that he could try hitting balls again. "I got out on the court later that day," he said. "I sat down after two minutes of hitting and thought: 'Do I want to do this? I've lost everything. I'm getting winded after 30 seconds of hitting balls up and down the court. I'm hitting the ball terribly. I have no confidence.'
"That's when I just said: 'Look, you can't be selfish and you can't be naive about this. You have to play professional sport again. A select few get this opportunity. You would be an idiot to push it back'."
Dent worked hard to regain his strength and played his first Grand Slam tournament for three years at the Australian Open in January. No wonder he was happy to spend 20 minutes on court after his second-round victory here, grabbing the umpire's microphone to thank the crowd, signing autographs and posing for photographs.
"If you're an American, it can't get any better than this," he said. "It's just all gravy right now. I can't ask for anything more than to be out here to play the sport I love and with this sort of support."
A serve-and-volley specialist who has been hitting serves at up to 147mph here, Dent played and lost to Murray twice in 2005, firstly at Queen's Club, which was only the Scot's second victory on the main tour. Dent was world No 30 at the time and Murray No 357. "He passed really well and I couldn't really read the backhand," Dent remembered. "He could hit both ways really well.
"Even then I knew he was going to be good. I said in an interview then that he reminded me of a Lleyton Hewitt with probably a little bit of a bigger serve. Andy's got a great first serve. And he's just so rock-solid from the baseline."
Dent said he would stick to his serve-and-volley strategy. "Andy Murray is one of the best counter-punchers the game has ever seen," he said. "It would be silly for me to stay back and out-rally him. I will guarantee everybody this: if I lose 6-0 6-0 6-0, I'm going to die fighting for every point."
Dent's family is steeped in tennis. His Australian father, Phil, is a former top-20 player who played in an Australian Open final. His mother, Betty-Ann Stuart, another top-20 player, reached the doubles final here in 1977 with Renee Richards.
At Wimbledon she is better remembered for attracting hordes of photographers after playing in a pair of knickers bearing the slogan "Watch it". Taylor's step-brother, Brett Hansen-Dent, played on the ATP tour, while his godfather is Phil Alexander, the former Australian player.
The winner is likely to play Marin Cilic, the No 16 seed, although the Croat has laboured to beat the unheralded Americans Ryan Sweeting and Jesse Levine in his first two matches. Cilic now faces the Uzbekistani Denis Istomin. Juan Martin del Potro, the 6ft 6in giant from Argentina, looms in the quarter-finals, the stage at which Murray beat him here last year.
Murray is seeded to meet Rafael Nadal in the last four. The Spaniard has never gone beyond the semi- finals here, lost to Murray at that stage 12 months ago and is working his way back after a two-month absence with tendinitis in both knees.
Nadal is fresher than he has been at this stage of the season in past years, but it remains to be seen how close he is to his best.
Nadal lost only seven games in his first match here against Richard Gasquet but was less convincing against Nicolas Kiefer in Friday's night session. The world No 3 won 6-0 3-6 6-3 6-4 and now plays his fellow Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro.
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