Wimbledon 2014: Andy Murray makes short work of Spaniard Roberto Bautista
Champion in explosive form to brush aside world No 23 in straight sets and set up meeting with 6ft 8in Anderson
It is easy to take Andy Murray’s consistent excellence for granted here on what has become his home court but the 27-year-old Scot delivered a performance that was exceptional even by his standards. Murray booked his place in the second week of Wimbledon for the seventh year in a row by crushing Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 on Centre Court.
Murray has dropped only 19 games in reaching the fourth round, which is seven fewer than his previous best first week at the All England Club in 2010. If you include the Olympics in the equation he has now won 16 matches in a row here and 22 of his last 23.
Bautista Agut, the world No 23, represented a significant step-up in class compared with Murray’s previous two opponents. The 26-year-old Spaniard won his first title at a grass-court tournament in the Netherlands last week and is one of the game’s most improved performers but was swept aside by a merciless display from his occasional practice partner.
Kim Sears watches Andy Murray in action during his victory over Roberto Bautista
Every department of Murray’s game looked in good order, even if he did play two loose service games. The world No 5 dropped only five points when his first serve found the target, hit some thunderous returns and moved around the court with his customary sure-footed speed.
Whether he was thumping his ground strokes, putting away his volleys or bemusing his opponent with his subtle variations of slice and spin, Murray did everything with the assurance of a player completely at ease on what most consider to be the sport’s most challenging surface. He needed just 95 minutes to secure a meeting on Monday with Kevin Anderson, a 6ft 8in South African with a big serve and a game.
Bautista Agut, a baseline drone who plays as though he fears a nosebleed if he dares to venture up the court, had clearly forgotten to pack a Plan B in his racket bag. With neither the serve nor the power to hurt Murray, he could do little more than take the Scot’s punches on the chin.
The Spaniard might have been made to look like a novice, but Murray insisted afterwards: “He’s the best opponent that I’ve played so far. He was a step-up but I felt like I responded well. I thought there were a few things I could do a little bit better, but it’s been a good first week. Now I can rest up and be fresh for Monday.”
After a lunchtime start on Court One in Murray’s previous match, normal service was resumed with his early-evening appointment on Centre Court. The afternoon rain which had been forecast never arrived and by the time the players came on to court just after 6pm all but one corner of the stadium was in shade on a glorious evening.
Bautista Agut began confidently enough, holding for 1-0 and then going 30-0 up on Murray’s serve, but that was about as good as it got for the man from Valencia. Murray held serve and broke to love in the following game, courtesy of two thumping forehand winners and two errors by Bautista Agut. After breaking again Murray served out for the set in just 27 minutes.
On the first point of the second set a Murray shot clipped the top of the net and trickled over on to Bautista Agut’s side of the court. The Spaniard reacted with the look of a man who had just lost his spade after being asked to remove all the sand from the beach at Torremolinos. He went on to hold serve but two subsequent breaks took Murray into a 5-2 lead.
Murray played a poor service game as Bautista Agut broke for 5-3, but order was quickly restored. The Scot, seeming to vent his anger at dropping his serve, hit a sensational corner-to-corner forehand cross-court winner on the first point of the following game and went on to break for the fifth time to take a two-sets-to-love lead.
Ricky Gervais watches Andy Murray in action during his victory over Roberto Bautista
Bautista Agut was looking increasingly downcast. In the second game of the third set he appeared to let out a loud sigh of “adios”. It was not long before Murray was saying his goodbyes. The Scot went 4-0 up, suffered another blip when two double faults enabled Bautista Agut to break back for 4-1, but broke again at 5-2 to complete his victory. The only time when a smile broke out on the Spaniard’s face was when he congratulated Murray at the end.
Murray beat Anderson, his next opponent, for the loss of only four games when they met in the first round of the Australian Open four years ago. The current world No 18 won their only other meeting at the Montreal Masters in 2011.
“He’s a tough opponent,” Murray said. “He’s playing the best tennis of his career so far. I think he’s up at his highest ranking. He’s made some improvements this year. He’s a big guy with a big game so I’ll need to be sharp and I’ll have to return well if I want to win.”
Murray’s mother, Judy, was absent for some of the match as she watched her other son, Jamie, win his doubles. “It’s a shame we’re on at the same time,” Murray joked afterwards. “None of my family came to watch me so I’m obviously the No 2 son. My brother’s the priority. He’s the No 1 son. He’s always had the preference. That’s why I’ve been so competitive since I’ve been a kid. But it’s good that we both won.”
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