Jeremy Chardy was playing beach tennis at Port Melbourne yesterday. The 25-year-old Frenchman probably wished he had gone back there today after being swept out of the Australian Open on a wave of winners by Andy Murray.
The Scot played his best tennis of the tournament so far to win 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 and claim a place in Friday’s semi-final against the winner of tonight’s concluding quarter-final between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Chardy, a big hitter with an explosive forehand and a powerful serve, can be a threat to the very best players, as Murray discovered to his cost when he lost their last meeting in Cincinnati last summer, but on this occasion he was never given the chance to get into his stride. Murray, who raced into a 4-0 lead, was on his game from the start, forcing the world No 36 on to the back foot and never giving him time to play his shots.
Murray had already been on court for less time than any of the other seven quarter-finalists and this 110-minute demolition job took his total playing time in his five matches here this year to less than nine hours. Having had to play all his matches in the heat of the day, Murray will be delighted to have conserved his energy. His only concern now, with all the remaining singles matches to be played at night, might be that he has had no experience of playing in the cooler evening conditions.
Chardy could not have made a worse start, opening with a double fault and then putting a routine backhand in the net on break point. The Frenchman recovered to win three games in a row in the middle of the set, but Murray was soon back in charge. Chardy won the first game of the second set but from that point onwards he lost eight games in a row.
Murray, who has now won 46 of his last 50 matches against French players, suffered a momentary lapse when he failed to serve out for the match at 5-1 in the third set, but it was only delaying the inevitable. On his first match point in the following game Murray broke Chardy’s serve for the eighth and last time, pressuring the Frenchman into netting a forehand with the quality of his return. Murray hit a total of 32 winners – an impressive tally considering how short the match was – and made just 20 unforced errors.
If the draw has been kind to Murray, who has yet to face a top 10 opponent, he has shown admirable focus on his task. He has reached his 12 Grand Slam semi-final without losing a set, a feat he had achieved only once before, at the Australian Open three years ago. He is building a formidable record on these courts, having reached the semi-finals or better for the last four years in a row.
If the world No 3 is to win the title, however, he will have to make history. In the Open era no player has followed up his maiden Grand Slam title with victory in his next tournament. The way Murray played today, however, he will be thinking that anything is possible.