Come rain or shine, under a roof or in the open air, Andy Murray’s progress is relentless. The 26-year-old Scot last night secured his customary place in the second week here when he gave another master class in the art of grass-court tennis, beating Spain’s Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 to secure his third successive straight-sets victory.
Murray’s 14th win in a row on grass will take him into a fourth-round meeting on Monday with the winner of today’s encounter between Mikhail Youzhny and Viktor Troicki. The Russian and the Serb were sent home early after another rain-interrupted day and must have looked on enviously as Murray was able to complete his third-round match on schedule under the Centre Court roof.
Just as he had in his first two matches, Murray was on his game from the start. If there were times when Robredo took advantage of some tame second serves, that was the only aspect of Murray’s game that looked in need of attention. The Scot, who has failed to reach the second week here only once, on his debut in 2005, struck the ball superbly and repeatedly had Robredo struggling with the quality of his returns and his clever variations of pace and spin. What caught the eye in particular was Murray’s backhand down the line, which has always been one of his most potent weapons. Time and again he rifled his double-handed shots deep into the court beyond Robredo’s reach.
Murray said afterwards that it had been his best performance of the week. “I hit the ball really, really well from the back of the court tonight from the first game, and that was pleasing because I served well in the first couple of matches but maybe hadn’t hit the ball quite as I would have liked,” he said. “But playing under the roof it’s probably a bit easier to time the ball because there’s no wind.”
This was the fifth time Murray has played under the Centre Court roof, which with each passing year is looking like the All England Club’s wisest investment. If Murray’s most recent experience of playing indoors on grass was a losing one – Roger Federer took control of last year’s final here after the roof was closed – the world No 2 had the advantage of knowing how different the conditions can be under cover. Robredo, who was playing his first match on Centre Court, let alone under the roof, took time to adjust. By the time he had, the match was already slipping from his grasp.
Murray said: “I would rather there was good weather and we played without the roof because it’s an outdoor tournament and it’s better if we get to play outside. It changes the way the court plays. Anyone will tell you that. If you play on an outdoor hard court compared to indoors, it’s just different conditions. Until they built the roof we had been used to playing on indoor hard courts and indoor clay sometimes, but never on indoor grass. So it’s very, very different. Tommy’s in his thirties and would never have played on indoor grass before.”
When Robredo had hamstring surgery two years ago he must have wondered whether he would ever experience occasions like this again. The former world No 5 was ranked No 471 when he came back after eight months out last summer. This time last year he was playing in a Challenger tournament in Italy.
The 31-year-old Spaniard, who owes his first name to his father’s love of The Who’s Tommy rock opera, was still ranked outside the world’s top 100 in February, but following his remarkable run earlier this month to the quarter-finals of the French Open, where he became the first man for 86 years to win three successive Grand Slam matches from two sets down, he is back up to No 29.
However, Robredo has never been at his best on grass – he has never reached the fourth round here and has made the third only three times in 12 attempts – and the size of his task was clear from the moment he dropped serve in the third game. Forced out wide beyond the tramlines by a beautiful Murray forehand, Robredo put his own forehand in the net on break point.
Murray’s level dipped momentarily when he was broken in the sixth game of the first set when he put an attempted drop shot in the net, but by that stage the Scot was breaking Robredo’s serve at will.
Having broken the Spaniard three times in the first set, Murray made an immediate breakthrough in the second. From that moment onwards Robredo could manage little more than damage limitation, although he played better with each set and was serving particularly well in the latter stages. He did not drop serve again until 5-5 in the third set, when a lame forehand into the net gave Murray the chance to close out the match.
On Murray’s first match point Robredo produced his best shot of the day, curling a superb running forehand pass beyond the Scot’s reach. However, it was not the start of a French Open-like revival for the Spaniard and the match was over after the next point as Robredo put a backhand in the net.
Jerzy Janowicz’s defeat of Nicolas Almagro means that the Polish world No 22 is now the highest-ranked player left in Murray’s half of the draw. Janowicz, who beat Murray in last year’s Paris Masters, and Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis remain potential threats to the Scot’s progress, but he has never before had a draw open up like this at a Grand Slam.
Nevertheless, he said the defeats of so many big-name players this week was not without its disadvantages. “I think there’s a lot more pressure on me now with them being out,” Murray said. “I don’t read the papers but they’re in the locker room, so you see some of the headlines. It’s not that helpful. You need to be professional enough to not let that stuff bother you and just concentrate on each match. I think I did a good job of that today.’