Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Andy Murray defeats Joao Sousa to ease into third round of Australian Open

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17: Andy Murray Great Britain reacts after a point in his second round match against Joao Sousa of Portugal during day four of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 17, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

On an afternoon of stifling heat Andy Murray wasted little time in winning his second-round match at the Australian Open here today.

The 25-year-old Scot was much too good for Portugal’s Joao Sousa, winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in just an hour and 41 minutes. In the third round he will play Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.



With the temperature climbing to 39C by mid-afternoon it was not a day to linger on court. Murray, who was on the attack from the start, clearly had no intention of hanging around. The match was played on the second of the show courts here, Hisense Arena, which used to be a velodrome, and Bradley Wiggins could hardly have covered the ground more effectively than the world No 3.



Sousa, a 23-year-old Portuguese who had won his first match at a Grand Slam tournament 48 hours earlier, was outclassed in every department. Murray, striking the ball well from both flanks, had his opponent on the back foot from the start. Sousa tried to cover every inch of the court, but Murray had him almost permanently on the run.



Murray broke serve five times, while Sousa did not force a single break point. Serving at speeds of up to 131mph, Murray hit 14 aces and won 80 per cent of the points when his first serve found the court. His returns repeatedly put Sousa under pressure, though it was to the world No 100’s credit that he never threw in the towel.



“I’ve played in worse conditions, but it was still very hot,” Murray said afterwards. “When the sun came out, it was extremely hot. When it wasn't, it was fine. There was no humidity. They said it was eight per cent humidity. When you get the combination of the heat and the humidity is when it's normally at its worst.”



From 1-1 in the first set Murray made two successive breaks of serve to take an early hold on the match. The first set was secured in 31 minutes and Murray raced into a 4-0 lead in the second before Sousa held twice to bring some respectability to the scoreline.



The pattern continued at the start of the third set, with Murray breaking in the opening game. Sousa eventually put up sterner resistance, holding serve four times in succession, but it was only delaying the inevitable.



Murray’s next opponent, 22-year-old Berankis, is a former world junior world No 1 who will be best remembered in some quarters for his Davis Cup heroics in 2010 when Britain visited Lithuania. Berankis won both his singles rubbers, against Dan Evans and James Ward, to inflict the most embarrassing defeat in Britain’s history. The result prompted John Lloyd’s resignation as captain.



Currently world No 110, Berankis broke into the world’s top 100 three years ago, but his last two seasons have been seriously disrupted by a groin injury, although he hopes the problem is now solved.



Berankis has been in excellent form here. In winning three matches in qualifying and two in the main draw he has dropped only one set. He claimed his biggest scalp so far with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 victory today over Germany’s Florian Mayer, the world No 28.



“He plays well,” Murray said. “He’s not that tall and he hits the ball pretty big from the back of the court. He plays aggressive. He's a very flat hitter of the ball. He's obviously playing well to beat a guy like Mayer that comfortably. It was a very good win.”



Serena Williams dropped only two games in beating Spain’s Garbine Muguruza and showed little sign of being troubled by the ankle injury she suffered in the previous round. The American’s only physical problem appeared to be a swollen upper lip after she hit herself in the face with her racket. Victoria Azarenka, the world No 1 and defending champion, needed only 55 minutes to beat Eleni Daniilidou 6-1 6-0.

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