Murray sprints into Australian Open quarter-finals with demolition of Gilles Simon
There have been some marathon matches in this Australian Open but Andy Murray seems to be interested only in sprints.
The 25-year-old Scot won in straight sets for the fourth round in succession here today when he beat Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in just an hour and 35 minutes. Murray is through to his ninth consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final, in which he will face another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy.
Even Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, has had his endurance tested here this year, having taken more than five hours to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in the longest match of the tournament on Sunday night. Simon, meanwhile, had featured in the third longest match, a five-set victory over Gael Monfils on Saturday that had taken four hours and 43 minutes. That was just 47 minutes less than Murray had spent on court in his first three matches.
Simon, who has never gone beyond the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam tournament, had looked shattered at the end of his third-round victory. The world No 16 had clearly not had enough time to recover for today's match, especially for a contest against someone as good as Murray. Having had to call for a trainer in the third set, he was barely moving on some points by the end.
"I just had to try to focus on my side of the court," Murray said afterwards. "Gilles is one of the best movers on the tour but he was struggling with his movement today. That's what Grand Slam tennis is like today. It's tough."
Simon said he had been expecting a difficult day. "I did all I could for the last two days to play this one," he said. "It was a painful hour and a half on the court."
Given that Murray had won his previous nine matches against Simon, dropping only two sets in the process, the Scot would still have been the favourite even if his opponent had been firing on all cylinders. No player has suffered more defeats at the hands of Murray than the Frenchman.
The match, played in early-evening warmth at the end of a beautiful day, was a non-contest. For much of it Murray appeared to be playing at three-quarter pace, happy to conserve his energy for the greater challenges that will lie ahead.
Murray was quickly on his way, breaking in the opening game, and took the first set in 36 minutes after breaking for a third time. The only game Simon won in the second set was on the Scot's serve. The Frenchman improved marginally in the early stages of the third set, but he had treatment on his right knee after the fifth game and offered little more than token resistance thereafter. Murray put a forehand into the net on his first match point but on the second he hit a winning forehand pass.
Chardy reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Italy's Andreas Seppi. Murray has won four of his five matches against Chardy, but the world No 36 won their most recent meeting in Cincinnati last summer. The 25-year-old Frenchman, who beat Juan Martin del Potro in the third round, is an aggressive ball striker with a big serve and powerful forehand, but he sometimes struggles for consistency.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Richard Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a confrontation between two more Frenchmen. He will next meet the winner of today's concluding night match between Roger Federer and Milos Raonic.
Victoria Azarenka did not always look convincing as she began the defence of her title last week, but the 23-year-old from Belarus needed only 56 minutes to beat Russia's Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1. In the quarter-finals Azarenka will meet Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
Serena Williams the favourite for the title, beat Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0 and will now face her 19-year-old fellow American, Sloane Stephens.