US Open 2015: Andy Murray has to dig deep if he wants to reach final as rivalry hots up

Big-serving Kevin Anderson is latest top 40 player to bar Scot’s way to final

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The Independent Online

When the top players reach the latter stages of a Grand Slam tournament they have usually had at least one or two comparatively easy rides along the way. If Andy Murray makes the final of the US Open here next weekend he will probably have done so after the most difficult passage he has ever had to negotiate at a Grand Slam tournament.

At this rate Murray will not face a single player ranked outside the world’s top 40. Having beaten Nick Kyrgios (world No 37) and Adrian Mannarino (No 35) in his first two matches, Murray added the scalp of Thomaz Bellucci (No 30) on Saturday night, beating the 27-year-old  Brazilian 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in emphatic fashion.

In the fourth round on Monday Murray meets Kevin Anderson (No 14). If he keeps on winning the Scot is likely to face Stan Wawrinka (No 5) in the quarter-finals and Roger Federer (No 2) in the semi-finals before a final with Novak Djokovic (No 1), who was meeting Roberto Bautista Agut on Sunday night in the first evening match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

As if Murray’s opponents were not difficult enough, the conditions here have been highly challenging. Having survived a five-set marathon against Mannarino in gruelling heat and humidity 48 hours earlier, Murray was grateful for the opportunity to play in much cooler conditions against Bellucci, though the temperature is forecast to climb back to 33C over the next two days.

 

Murray played some of his best tennis of the tournament so far, with his backhand particularly effective as he struck the ball with consistent accuracy throughout the match. Having recovered from his cold, he joked afterwards: “Today I felt much, much better. My voice feels like normal again. Still dull, obviously.”

The world No 3 has had the most demanding summer of all the top players, having played in the Davis Cup the weekend after Wimbledon and having had only a few days’ rest before starting his North American hard-court campaign.

His schedule will not get any easier, with Britain’s Davis Cup semi-final against Australia in Glasgow starting five days after the final here. The visiting team are likely to be at full strength, with Bernard Tomic declaring his availability again following the clash with Tennis Australia that led to him being excluded from the team for the quarter-finals.

“Obviously, if I was to lose in the next round I’d have more time to prepare for the Davis Cup,” Murray said, “which is a big priority between now and the end of the year, but ideally I would be going into the Davis Cup having played on the Sunday here. I don’t feel more stressed by it, but I have thought about it.

“I’ve played a lot of tennis and [I’ve wondered if] maybe by the time I get to the Davis Cup I could be flat, or even towards the end of the tournament here. I hope that’s not the case because I did plan my training with my team so that wouldn’t be the case.”

Anderson, who is one of the game’s biggest servers, went closer to beating Djokovic than anyone at Wimbledon this summer, with the Serb fighting back to win in the fourth round after losing the first two sets. The 6ft 8in South African won the third title of his career at Winston-Salem nine days ago and has dropped only one set in his three victories here over Andrey Rublev, Austin Krajicek and Dominic Thiem. He is through to the fourth round for the first time.

Murray lost to Anderson in Montreal four years ago but has won their four subsequent meetings, the most recent of which was in the final of the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club in June.

“I feel like there have been some match-ups where it’s been pretty close and I’ve been in with a chance,” Anderson said. “He definitely makes it tough. He makes a lot of returns. He reads the serve very well.

“I’ll definitely be ready for that ball to come back. I’ll almost have the approach that it’s serve-and-next-ball, whereas other times I maybe just focus on the serve and I know if I hit my spot and hit it well, more times than not the ball maybe doesn’t come back – and if it does, it’s a pretty easy ball. With him, you have to be ready for the next ball.”

Marin Cilic, the defending champion, became the first man to reach the quarter-finals when he beat Jérémy Chardy 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1. Cilic hit 23 aces, including four in the tie-break at the end of the third set, after recovering from a twisted ankle which he had sustained in the second set. Cilic will next play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat his fellow Frenchman, Benoît Paire, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

Britain’s Dominic Inglot and his Swedish partner Robert Lindstedt reached the quarter-finals of the doubles by beating Tommy Haas and Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-3. Bob and Mike Bryan, the top seeds, were beaten first time out by their fellow Americans Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey.

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