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Andy Murray eases into week two of US Open

By Paul Newman

Andy Murray is developing a  formidable record of consistency at Grand Slam level. Thanks to his  emphatic 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Germany’s Florian Mayer here on Sunday night, the 26-year-old Scot has reached the second week of the last 11 Grand Slam tournaments he has played in.

Given that in his last four Grand Slams he has won the title twice and finished runner-up twice, the world No 3 will no doubt be hoping his fortnight’s work is far from done.

In last night’s third-round match the name of Murray’s opponent was the same as in the second round, but the challenge very different.

Leonardo Mayer, from Argentina, had posed Murray problems with his thunderous serves and big, looping ground strokes, but Florian Mayer rarely looked like troubling him.

The 29-year-old German can be a tricky opponent. A top 20 player two years ago, the world No 47 has a style all of his own.

He uses a variety of slices and spins on his backhand, while his forehand features a long backswing. The style can fluster some first-time opponents, but Murray was wise after winning both their previous meetings.

Murray conceded only two break points in the whole match – neither of which were converted – despite putting just 51 per cent of his first serves in court. Mayer won only four out of 41 points on Murray’s first serve and the Scot cracked 42 winners to Mayer’s 17.

Although the sky was overcast, the humid conditions on an overcast  afternoon were energy-sapping. It was a typical September day in New York and Murray was grateful to have wrapped up victory after just an hour and 59 minutes.

“The conditions were tough today because it was very humid,” Murray said afterwards. “It cooled down a bit towards the end, but at the end of the first set and the start of the second it was extremely hot.

“We’ve been told there are thunderstorms coming, so hopefully that will take away some of the humidity in the next few days.”

Murray added: “He’s a tricky  opponent because he hits a lot of  different shots. It was tough to get into a rhythm, so I’m really glad to come through in three sets.”

Having played his previous match in the commotion of the Louis Armstrong Stadium, where he has not always played his best tennis, Murray was probably grateful to return to the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium, though the crowd was comparatively subdued in what would have been too one-sided a match for the neutral.

The first set was a curiously subdued affair. Mayer had to save three break points in the opening game, but thereafter the German seemed reasonably secure on his serve.

While Murray never looked like being broken, despite struggling to get his first serves in, the Scot rarely made inroads into Mayer’s service games and the set meandered gently towards a tie-break.

However, Murray went through the gears when it mattered, racing into a 4-0 lead in the tie-break. An ace brought up five set points and Murray took the second of them with a backhand return.

The second set was much more straightforward. Murray broke in the second game, saved a break point in the third with a service winner and took the set with a second break after hitting some thunderous returns.

The last two points were typical of the Scot: a cracking cross-court  forehand return winner followed by a  thumping backhand pass that arrowed down the line.

By now Mayer was starting to look a beaten man. Murray took control of the third set by breaking in the fourth game and completed the job with his fourth break of serve in the match.

One point in the final game showed Murray’s determination to make Mayer play every ball. The Scot chased down a drop shot at breakneck speed before flicking a forehand cross-court winner past his disbelieving opponent. The German’s subsequent forehand into the net allowed Murray to convert match point at the first attempt.

Murray, who will next play Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin after the world No 65’s five-set victory over Andreas Seppi, was asked what he needed to improve in his forthcoming matches. “I think I need to start matches a little bit quicker,” the Scot said. “I was a little bit slow out of the blocks.”

Nevertheless, Murray will have good reason to feel pleased with his first week’s work here.

He has coped well with the pressure of being the defending champion and has played within himself in his first three matches.

On past form, there is plenty more to come from the Scot as he prepares for greater challenges ahead.

Asked if he felt less pressure given all his success over the last 15 months, including winning the Olympic, US Open and Wimbledon titles, Murray said: “I think outside expectations are maybe higher, but there’s not as much pressure on me to win.

“I feel a lot more comfortable  coming into these events now than I did at this time last year. Hopefully, I can have another good run.”

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