Murray glad to crank up heat with his fastest serve
If one of the keys to winning Grand Slams is to avoid expending unnecessary energy en route to the latter stages, Andy Murray’s US Open challenge is back on track after a thumping 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory over Grigor Dimitrov.
The speed with which Murray closed out victory over the 24-year-old Bulgarian was underlined when he hit the fastest serve of his career. The thunderous ace which Murray hit to win the first set was 141mph, 3mph quicker than his previous best.
In earning a quarter-final meeting with Kei Nishikori, Murray put behind him the memory of his laboured performance in the previous round against Paolo Lorenzi. Having made 63 unforced errors against the Italian, Murray made just 23 against Dimitrov, who had won his previous meeting with the Scot and beaten him in the Wimbledon quarter-finals two years ago.
In an echo of Kyle Edmund’s defeat to Novak Djokovic the previous evening, Dimitrov appeared to be overwhelmed by playing a night match in the biggest stadium in tennis.
“Once I got up in the score, I wasn’t giving him any free points,” Murray said afterwards. “I could sense it was getting tough for him. I just wanted to keep my foot on the gas, which I didn’t really do the other day.
“That was the one thing that I wasn’t happy with against Lorenzi. When I did win a first set that was tight and in which I didn’t play my best, I let him back into the match after I got a break early in the second set.
“I wanted to make sure that if I got ahead, I stayed on top of him, didn’t have any dip in concentration or my level, and stuck to my tactics.
“That’s the beauty of an individual sport. Just because you play badly a couple of days ago doesn’t mean I was going to play badly here. My best tennis is in there. When you don’t play your best and win, it’s a really positive thing.”
Murray had not been sleeping well since arriving in New York, but after sleeping for 12 hours straight on Sunday night was clearly in excellent shape. “It was a very quick match, one where I played very well and got a little bit of confidence back,” he said.
This was Murray’s 26th victory in the 27 matches he has played since losing to Djokovic in the French Open final three months ago and his 27th successive victory over an opponent ranked outside the world’s top 20.
Playing in the fourth round of his 23rd Grand Slam tournament in succession, Murray was on his game from the start. The Scot served consistently and broke Dimitrov seven times, punishing the Bulgarian’s erratic serves.
Having saved two break points in the opening game, Murray broke in the fourth after Dimitrov netted what should have been a routine smash. Murray won eight games in a row until Dimitrov, having changed to a racket with tighter strings, broke serve for the only time.
As Murray broke back in the following game, Dimitrov took a wild kick at a ball in frustration and barely made contact. It was one of those nights for the World No.24.
With Murray leading by two sets to love you did not need to turn to the record books to rate the Scot an all but certain winner, but the statistics emphasised the point: Dimitrov had never won a match from two sets down, while Murray had won 124 Grand Slam matches in succession after taking the first two sets.
When Dimitrov served on break point in the first game of the third set he broke a string and by the time he was 4-0 down he was looking increasingly dispirited. The end came when he missed a forehand on Murray’s third match point.
“I played very well,” Murray said. “Tactically I played a very good match. I don’t think I made many mistakes. I kept good concentration throughout. I don’t think Grigor played his best, but I didn’t really give him a chance to get into the match.”
Dimitrov said he had “run out of fuel both physically and mentally” but added: “Andy right now is the best player out there.”
Murray confirmed that the 141mph serve was the fastest he had ever hit but wondered whether the speed gun had recorded it correctly, given that it was several miles per hour faster than any of his other serves.
Nishikori, who beat Ivo Karlovic 6-3 6-4 7-6, has lost seven of his previous eight meetings with Murray, most recently in the semi-finals of the Olympics.
“I played a really good match against him a few weeks ago,” Murray said.
“I’m aware I’ll need to do that again if I want to beat him because he’s one of the best players in the world and plays extremely well on hard courts.”