After two wins over opponents he had never faced before, Andy Murray is heading back into familiar territory. The reward for the 23-year-old Scot's 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory here in the Australian Open yesterday over Ukraine's Illya Marchenko is a third-round meeting tomorrow with Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the world No 32. From now onwards there will be no surprises.
Marchenko, like Karol Beck in the first round, came out with all guns blazing, but Murray repelled everything the world No 79 could fire at him and never looked in danger of being shot down. In his first two matches the world No 5 has lost just 13 games.
"It's been quite tough in the first couple of rounds, coming up against guys who have been going for huge shots really early in the rally, so I haven't been able to dictate too much, yet have won pretty comfortably," Murray said. "No disrespect to the players who are ranked below you, but if they're playing against someone who is ranked higher they do go for their shots and take a lot of chances. That's what's happened in the first two rounds, but Lopez is No 32 in the world, very solid and won't make too many mistakes.
"He makes it difficult for you but doesn't hit the ball that big, so I don't think he will be going for his shots too much. That will hopefully give me more of a chance to play more aggressively and dictate more of the play."
Garcia-Lopez, who beat Argentina's Eduardo Schwank 6-4, 7-6, 6-1, is a late developer, having broken into the world's top 40 for the first time last year. The 27-year-old from Albacete prefers clay, but his best performances last year were on grass at Eastbourne, where he reached the final, and on hard courts at Bangkok, where he won the second title of his career after claiming the scalp of Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.
In 25 previous appearances at Grand Slam tournaments Garcia-Lopez's best performances were runs to the third round at both Wimbledon and Melbourne in 2008. Murray won their only previous meeting in straight sets at Queen's Club two years ago. "He's a very solid player," Murray said. "He does everything well and he's improved his game on hard courts, so it's going to be a tough match."
Garcia-Lopez returned the compliments. "Andy has a really good serve and one of the best backhands in the game," he said. "He's a very good counter-puncher, but when you play against him it's different to when you're playing someone like Roger Federer, who plays so fast that you don't have the chance to play your own game. Against Andy you do get the chance to play."
Murray's match yesterday was on one of his favourite courts. Margaret Court Arena, the third show court here, is a sunken stadium that sits in the shadow of the bigger Rod Laver Arena but generates an atmosphere all of its own. Entry to the 6,000-capacity court is free to all holders of ground passes and the presence of Murray ensured that it was packed, with large queues of spectators unable to get in.
The court inevitably attracts a younger and more boisterous audience. With the sun going down after a glorious day, it was as if many of the crowd had spent the day drinking a beer or three on the beach before heading for Melbourne Park. At changeovers beach balls were bounced around the crowd until spoilsport stewards took them away.
Murray had huge support, both from locals and from a large British contingent, and clearly fed off it. While Marchenko offered only a limited challenge, his opponent did everything he needed to do with the minimum of fuss.
The Scot won the first five games without reply and another four in succession early in the second set after being broken for the only time in his first two matches. He hit 16 aces and said afterwards that he had been hitting the ball better than he had in his first match.
"When I went behind in the second set I started playing my shots a bit more and I felt comfortable," Murray said. "As the games got close I played a bit more solid than him. He was taking a lot of risks, but once it got tight a lot of the games got close and he started making more mistakes because I started playing percentage tennis. That was really the main difference."
If Murray beats Garcia-Lopez he will face the winner of an intriguing third-round contest between Marcos Baghdatis, a former finalist here, and Jurgen Melzer, who has not dropped a set in his first two matches.
Baghdatis progressed at the expense of Juan Martin Del Potro, the former world No 4, who missed almost all of last year with a wrist injury. The Argentine, who was beaten 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, sent for the trainer to look at his wrist during the match and showed only occasional glimpses of the form that took him to the US Open title two years ago.Reuse content