US Open 2015: Andy Murray used to lefties but is wary of Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci


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The Independent Online

Having grown up playing against his left-handed brother Jamie, Andy Murray has always coped with “leftie” opponents better than most. In the third round of the US Open, however, the world No 3 faces the last left-hander to beat him who was not called Rafael Nadal.

In their only previous meeting Thomaz Bellucci beat Murray in straight sets at the Madrid Masters in 2011. That was on the 27-year-old Brazilian’s favoured surface of clay, but Murray will still give the world No 30 respect on a hard court.

“We were at altitude [in Madrid],” Murray recalled. “He plays well on the clay but I think he plays even better at altitude. He likes it when the conditions are pretty lively, like they are here.”

Bellucci, who is through to the third round for the first time, said he had begun to feel more comfortable playing on hard courts. “I’ve seen that I can have good results on this surface,” he said.

Right-handed players often have problems with left-handers, particularly when returning serve as the ball swings away from their backhands. However, Murray said: “For me it’s almost more natural to play against a left-hander because that was what I learnt to play against when I was a kid. My first five, six years of tennis were playing against a left-hander.”

Bellucci has not dropped a set in his first two matches. “I expect a tough match,” Murray said. “He’s played well this year. He has a good serve. He plays predominantly from the back of the court, but he’s an aggressive player. He likes to try and dictate the points from the back.”

Murray, in contrast, was taken to four sets in the first round and then came back to win from two sets down for the eighth time in his career to beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. The Scot has been suffering with a cold and looked out of sorts before making his quality and strength tell in the latter stages.

“The only thing I’ve taken [for the cold] is vitamin C,” Murray said. “Hopefully, it takes three or four days before it’s out of the system. That’s one of the things about being an athlete. It’s survival of the fittest.”

The hot and humid conditions led to 12 men retiring mid-match in the first two rounds. “I’m OK because I’m from Brazil, where it’s very hot,” Bellucci said. “But it’s very tough for any player in these conditions. It’s so warm and the humidity is so high.

“I had two tough matches and I won them both in three sets so that’s good because I’m not so tired to play the next round. I’m playing well, I’m healthy and I’m full of confidence.”

Bellucci remembers Murray from their junior days. “I knew about him from a very young age,” the Brazilian recalled. “I saw him play for the first time when I was maybe 14 and he was 15. It was an Under-18s clay-court tournament in South America. I watched him because I knew he had a very good ranking.

“He played a Brazilian player called Leonardo Kirche and lost. It was very easy: 6-2, 6-2. Murray played so badly that day, but two years later he was winning every tournament. And, of course, he went on to become an unbelievable player.”

Jo Konta, the other Briton left in singles competition, faces Andrea Petkovic, the world No 18. The 27-year-old German sought advice recently from her fellow countryman, Boris Becker, who coaches Novak Djokovic.

“Boris has really opened my eyes to three or four aspects of my game and given me a new perspective,” Petkovic said. “Perhaps others had told me the same things before, but when it’s Boris telling you, then you really start to listen. He knows I have great respect for him and I trust him. He is my shadow in the background. I can call on him when I have something to discuss – and he always gives me an honest answer.”

Caroline Wozniacki failed to convert four match points before losing 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 to Petra Cetkovska, which left Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova as the only top 10 players still in the bottom half of the draw. Serena Williams, the lone top 10 player remaining in the top half, was facing Bethanie Mattek-Sands last night.

While Cetkovska was beating Wozniacki, Flavia Pennetta’s 6-1, 6-4 victory over Monica Niculescu was disrupted when a drone crashed into empty seats in Louis Armstrong Stadium after flying over the arena. A local teacher was arrested yesterday in connection with the incident.