After his five-set marathon against Adrian Mannarino in gruelling heat and humidity 48 hours earlier, Andy Murray was hoping for more comfortable conditions and a quicker victory when he faced Thomaz Bellucci here in the third round of the US Open.
The Scot’s wishes were granted on both counts. On an appreciably cooler evening in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Murray swept the 27-year-old Brazilian aside in two hours and 11 minutes to set up a fourth-round meeting on Monday with South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
Murray, who won 6-3, 6-2, 7-5, showed no after-effects following the head cold which had affected him in his previous match. He played some of his best tennis of the tournament so far to maintain his excellent record of consistency at this level. The last time Murray failed to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament – without counting the French Open that he missed two years ago through injury – was the 2010 US Open, when he was beaten by Stan Wawrinka in the third round.
The world No 3 said afterwards that it had been “very important” to conserve energy following his exhausting win over Mannarino. “My last match was extremely tough physically and mentally,” he said. “It was a lot cooler today, which helped, so [it was good] to get the win in three sets in much cooler conditions. I’ll get a day to recover now and get ready for the next one.”
He added: “It was much slower conditions today. It was a bit easier to return, tougher to serve. Because of that there were a lot more long rallies.”
The match in Arthur Ashe Stadium started just before 9pm. The humidity from earlier in the week had gone, the temperature was a very comfortable 22C and there was barely a breath of wind.
Bellucci, who had won his only previous meeting with Murray on clay four years ago, was appearing in the third round here for the first time at the eighth attempt. While clay is the world No 30’s best surface, he has enjoyed some good results on hard courts this year.
Murray went 0-30 down in his first two service games and in the second of them Bellucci broke when the Scot netted a forehand. The Brazilian’s advantage did not last long. From 40-30 up in the following game he hit two successive double faults and then missed a backhand.
The first set featured some excellent tennis from both men. Murray in particular struck the ball with great accuracy, regularly hitting the lines, while Bellucci kept the Scot on his toes with some thumping ground strokes from the back of the court.
The sixth game took 13 minutes as Bellucci saved four break points before levelling at 3-3. There were already 34 minutes on the clock at that stage, suggesting the crowd might be in for a long night, but Murray soon showed that he had no intention of hanging around too long.
When Bellucci served at 3-4 and 30-30 the Brazilian hit a careless forehand beyond the baseline and then missed a volley in response to Murray’s thumping forehand pass. The Scot served out for the set after 50 minutes, completing the job with an unreturned serve.
Bellucci dropped serve again in the opening game of the second set, hitting a double fault on break point. A forehand error cost him another break in the seventh game. By now Murray was flying and the Scot took the set in the following game at the first opportunity with a forehand winner.
There were no breaks in the third set until Bellucci served at 5-5, when Murray played a superb game. The Scot won the first point with a forehand winner after chasing down a drop shot, the second after a beautifully constructed rally and the third with a winning forehand pass.
A disconsolate Bellucci put a forehand in the net on the first break point and Murray served out for victory when the Brazilian put a forehand wide on his opponent’s second match point.
Murray said it had been important to break back immediately after Bellucci had made the early breakthrough. “He plays well with confidence and when he’s ahead,” Murray said. “When he got that break earlier I was a bit worried. He was striking the ball very well at the beginning. Thankfully I managed to get the break straight back. I felt like I played well after that. I used my variety well and made it tough for him.”
Murray said he expected a tough match against Anderson, who beat Dominic Thiem 6-3, 7-6, 7-6. Murray, however, has won five of his six previous matches against the South African, most recently in the final of the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club three months ago.
“He won the tournament in Winston-Salem last week and has had some good wins here,” Murray said. “I’ve played well against him in the past. But it will be a tough match. He serves extremely well and doesn’t give you too many chances.”Reuse content