Murray races into quarter-finals

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Andy Murray had always dreamed of playing in a night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium and when he finally got the chance here yesterday he made sure it would be an occasion to remember. Playing his best tennis of the tournament so far, Murray reached the quarter-finals of the US Open for the first time with a crushing 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Stanislas Wawrinka.

The gulf between the two players was enormous. Murray has generally got the better of the Swiss No 2 on hard courts – this was his fourth victory over him on the surface this year – but their matches have usually been close. On this occasion, however, the world No 10 never got near the 21-year-old Scot, who was at the top of his game from start to finish.

Everything in the Murray armoury was there: powerful and clever serving, subtle variations of pace, electric returns of serve, big ground strokes and assured volleys. The only shot that let him down in the early stages was his trademark drop shot, though by the end of the match even that part of his game was working well.

What impressed most was the balance Murray found between defence and attack. Sometimes the British No 1 can be too cautious, all but inviting his opponent to take the initiative, but here he was aggressive from the start, without ever becoming reckless. He hit some superb winners, with his backhand down the line an especially devastating shot.

The statistics told their own story. Murray hit 38 winners to Wawrinka’s 25 and made only 15 unforced errors, compared with his opponent’s 37. The Scot won 82 per cent of his points on first serve and of the 21 times he went to the net he lost the point on only four occasions.

Murray is now certain to climb at least one place to No 5 in next week’s updated world rankings list. He will climb a further place if he equals or betters Nikolay Davydenko’s performance here. The Russian plays Gilles Muller in the fourth round today and is on course to meet Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.

The Scot’s next opponent will be Juan Martin del Potro, who continued his remarkable run with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 triumph over Japan’s Kei Nishikori. It was Del Potro’s 23rd victory in a row, the 19-year-old Argentinian having won his last four tournaments.

Murray won their only previous encounter in Rome earlier this year after Del Potro retired in the final set with a back injury, but both will probably remember the match for some acrimonious verbal exchanges. Del Potro angered Murray by not apologising for hitting a ball straight at him and then making comments about his mother, Judy, who was watching in the stand. Murray told the Argentinian to “watch his mouth”.

There was never a danger of any animosity on the court last night as Murray and Wawrinka are good friends. The Scot said after the match: “It’s always tough playing against one of your friends, but this is the fourth round of the US Open and this is my favourite tournament. We had to put friendship to one side tonight.”

Although the stadium was almost full, the crowd were subdued for most of the match, probably because it was so one-sided. There was respectful appreciation of Murray’s excellence, but by the start of the second set some sections of the crowd decided it was time to find their own amusement. The umpire told them to delay their Mexican wave until the next changeover.

There were various celebrities in the crowd and the cameras picked up some of the cast of “Entourage”, an American comedy series of which Murray is a devotee. Asked on court after the match whether he had as much affection for Wimbledon as the US Open, Murray replied: “I love Wimbledon as well, but tonight we had the guys from ‘Entourage’ come to watch and it’s my favourite show. I love that show and you don’t get it back home.”

Murray had been slow out of his blocks in the previous round against Jurgen Melzer, but this time he was almost halfway down the straight before Wawrinka even heard the starting gun. The Scot raced into a 4-0 lead, making his first break thanks to four successive errors by Wawrinka and his second with two superb backhand winners down the line. Wawrinka finally held serve at the third attempt, but at 1-5 he was broken again, Murray taking the set by forcing an error with an excellent forehand.

Wawrinka finally found some sort of rhythm in the second set, saving a break point at 1-2 and then threatening the Murray serve at 3-3. The Scot trailed 15-40 but got out of trouble with a 130mph ace and a second serve winner after surprising Wawrinka by charging into the net.

Murray responded by breaking Wawrinka in the next game as the Swiss made four unforced forehand errors. The Scot faltered briefly when serving at 5-3, going 0-30 down, but took the set in suitably stylish fashion with a brilliant stop volley behind a powerful serve.

Wawrinka was broken to love in the third game of the third set as Murray tightened his grip on the match. When the Swiss served at 3-5 Murray broke again, securing victory after only an hour and 49 minutes when Wawrinka netted a backhand.

It was a good night all round for the Murray family, with Jamie and his partner, Liezel Huber, reaching the semi-finals of the mixed doubles by beating the No 2 seeds, Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic, 7-6, 6-7, 11-9. They next play the Americans Jill Craybas and Eric Butorac, who was Murray’s doubles partner until they split last year.