Andy Murray's defence of his US Open title is gathering pace. The 26-year-old Scot went through to the third round here thanks to an entertaining 7-5, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Argentina's Leonardo Mayer. With the exception of a poor third set, Murray played with power and panache to secure his place in the last 32.
At times Murray's court coverage was breathtaking. The world No 3 threw himself around Louis Armstrong Stadium like a man possessed, retrieving balls which many players would simply have not reached. Regularly forcing Mayer to hit the extra ball, Murray repeatedly put his opponent under pressure.
Nevertheless, the Argentinian often had Murray at full stretch with his bold ground strokes and there were times when the Scot had to work hard for his points. “It was a very tough match,” Murray said afterwards. “Both of us had to run a lot.”
He added: “I was starting to move a little bit better as the match went on. He's a big hitter of the ball. I had to defend a lot. We played some really good tennis and I thought it was an entertaining match.”
This was Murray's 26th consecutive second-round victory in a Grand Slam tournament, his only previous loss at this stage having come here in 2005, when he was beaten by Arnaud Clement. The Scot has become one of the most consistent performers at Grand Slam level, his focus rarely wavering, whoever is on the other side of the net.
Mayer, who was born on exactly the same day as Murray, has lost more Grand Slam matches (17) than he has won (13) and has never reached the world's top 50 or won a title. The world No 81 had met Murray only once before, losing a tight three-set contest in Valencia in 2009.
In the first two sets the only time Murray looked in any real trouble was in the opening game, in which he saved two break points with service winners. Mayer struck the ball well enough in the first set and had to defend only one break point, in the eighth game, but went into meltdown when serving at 5-6. Pushing too hard, the Argentinian handed Murray the set with four consecutive unforced errors as the Scot broke to love.
Murray had appeared to be playing within himself, but with the first set in the bag the world No 3 seemed to decide it was time to up the ante. He raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set, broke again to lead 5-1 and served out in emphatic fashion, punching home a high volley to take a two-set lead.
A crushing victory beckoned for Murray, but to Mayer's credit the Argentinian refused to throw in the towel. Murray, however, played his part in losing the third set. From the moment he netted a routine smash on the first point of his opening service game the Scot performed well below his usual level. Mayer made his first break of serve of the match in the second game, failed to take any of four break point opportunities in the sixth and served out to love in the ninth.
If Murray had appeared disgruntled and frustrated in the third set, he came out with an admirably aggressive attitude in the fourth. At 2-1 the Scot broke Mayer to love and at 4-1 he broke again, completing the job with a wonderfully creative lob. After two hours and 41 minutes Murray served out for the match when his opponent hit a return beyond the baseline.
Having disposed of one Mayer, Murray will now play another. In the third round he meets Florian Mayer, the world No 47, who beat the American Donald Young 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Murray has won both his previous meetings with the German, most recently in Madrid less than four months ago.