Andy Murray's preparations for the US Open are gathering pace. The 24-year-old Scot, having made a poor start to his American hard-court season by falling at the first hurdle in Montreal last week, is through to the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Masters thanks to a 6-2, 7-5 victory yesterday over Alex Bogomolov Jnr.
With the year's final Grand Slam event starting in New York on Monday week, Murray is keen to get in as much match practice as possible, particularly having decided to play only two tournaments in the build-up to Flushing Meadows. The world No 4, who today meets Gilles Simon following the Frenchman's 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 victory over David Ferrer, usually performs well in Cincinnati, having won the title three years ago and reached the quarter-finals there in five of the last six years.
Beating Bogomolov earned revenge for one of the Scot's worst defeats this year, Murray having lost in straight sets to the 28-year-old, Moscow-born American in Miami in March during his post-Australian Open slump. On that occasion Bogomolov broke Murray's serve seven times. A repeat performance never looked on the cards this time, though Murray's 11 aces and six double-faults were evidence of an occasionally erratic serving display.
While he was never at his best, Murray had too much in his game for an opponent who until this summer was playing most of his tennis on the Challenger circuit. Bogomolov broke into the world's top 50 for the first time this week after the best run of his career, including a semi-final appearance in Los Angeles. The American earned his place in Cincinnati's main draw via the qualifying tournament.
Murray got off to a flying start. A double-fault handed the Scot a break in the opening game and a series of fine returns saw him break to love in the third. When he then trailed 15-40 on his own serve after two double-faults and a careless forehand, Murray immediately dug himself out of trouble with a pair of aces before taking a 4-0 lead. Bogomolov stopped the rot in the following game, but Murray served out for the set.
The second set, however, was a much tighter affair. Bogomolov, now striking the ball with more power and chasing down every ball, twice managed to come back from a break down. Murray held serve to stay in the set at 4-5 and made the final decisive break in the next game thanks to some well-timed returns. An ace on his first match point delivered Murray victory after an hour and 41 minutes.
Murray put his patchy display down to a lack of match play in recent weeks. "It was quite up-and-down tennis," he said. "I started well but didn't play so well in the second set. But the consistency will come with playing more matches so I'm happy to get through in straight sets."
The winner of Murray's quarter-final will play either Rafael Nadal or Mardy Fish. Nadal needed more than three and a half hours to beat his fellow Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in a match that was strewn with errors. Fish, who is currently at a career-best No 7 in the world rankings, overcame Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-5. Novak Djokovic, who has lost only once this year, won his 55th match of 2011 when he beat the Czech Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3.
The Cincinnati tournament is a combined event this year, with men and women playing in the same week. Sam Stosur, who lost to Serena Williams in the final in Toronto last weekend, beat Li Na 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to earn a quarter-final against Maria Sharapova, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Svetlana Kuznetsova.