Rain hands Gilbert opportunity to bring Murray back from brink

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The Independent Online

The Lawn Tennis Association is said to be paying Brad Gilbert nearly £700,000 a year and the man who is reckoned to be one of the world's best coaches was given the perfect chance to prove his worth here last night.

Gilbert's charge, Andy Murray, was trailing 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 to Nikolai Davydenko in the fourth round of the US Open when rain started to fall in Louis Armstrong Stadium after just over two hours of play. With no improvement in the weather, the players were told four hours later that they would have to return today to complete the match.

The interruption will at least have given Gilbert the chance to help Murray plot his way back into a contest that seemed to be slipping away from him. The 19-year-old Scot fought back after a slow start to take the second set, only for Davydenko to regain the initiative.

By the time play was halted the No 7 seed was hitting the ball with renewed confidence while Murray seemed ill at ease as he tried to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

Davydenko has crept into the world's top 10 with the rest of the planet hardly noticing. He is ranked No 6 but has never reached the final of a Masters series tournament, let alone a Grand Slam event. Some of his success is down to sheer hard work: he has played 26 tournaments already this year, winning three of them.

If Davydenko's serves and volleys are no more than adequate, the 25-year-old Russian compensates with excellent groundstrokes and speed around the court.

In the first set Davydenko barely made a mistake. Murray opened by holding serve comfortably enough but the Russian reeled off six games in a row. Murray won only five points on his serve in the rest of the set.

However, the Scot is rarely rattled by such a setback and he quickly played his way back into contention. He cut down on his errors, forced Davydenko into mistakes by relentlessly getting the ball back and went for winners when the chances came. He broke to lead 2-1 in the second set and won it despite failing to serve out at 5-4.

Murray seemed to have taken command when he broke again at the start of the third set, but, to his own evident anger he failed to convert two more break points in the Russian's next service game. Davydenko promptly broke back and quickly resumed control.

Looking tired, Murray started playing too cautiously and Davydenko began drilling groundstroke winners into the corners. The Russian broke again at 3-2 and served out for the set, at which point the rain came.

The other half of the draw will feature a quarter-final between two former champions, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick, who have both lost to Murray this year. Hewitt, who was nearly a non-starter here because of a knee injury, beat Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 in a match that lasted more than three and a half hours and finished shortly before 1am.

Jelena Jankovic, who had knocked out the 2004 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in the previous round, became the first woman to reach the semi-finals when she dropped only four games against Elena Dementieva, the No 4 seed.

Amélie Mauresmo, aiming to win her third Grand Slam tournament of the year, reached the quarter-finals with a typically up-and-down display against Serena Williams. Mauresmo, who now plays Dinara Safina, won 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.

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