Wimbledon: Andy Murray reaches quarter-finals with straight-set victory
Crazy Kazakhs, unpredictable Germans, flamboyant Italians, eccentric Frenchmen - they are all the same to Andy Murray. The World No.1 has faced an exotic mix of some of the game's more charismatic figures in his first four matches here and come through each of them with minimal fuss.
Benoit Paire was the latest to be swept off the Centre Court stage as Murray won 7-6 6-4 6-4 to secure his 26th win in a row against Frenchmen.
Like Alexander Bublik, Dustin Brown and Fabio Fognini in the previous rounds, Paire had no answer to the consistent brilliance of a player eyeing his third Wimbledon title.
"I thought I played well," Murray said. "Maybe I played a couple of sloppy service games in the first set. But that was by far the best I've hit the ball so far in the tournament. I'm really pleased with that.
"He's not an easy guy to play. He's got one of the best backhands and he can play every shot. It's not always easy to see where you should be playing the ball. Tactics are not easy against him, but I managed to get it done."
In the 66 matches he has played at Wimbledon, Murray has never lost to a player ranked lower than 19th in the world. Paire, the World No.46, never looked like denting that record as the Scot secured his place in the quarter-finals of his home Grand Slam for the 10th year in a row.
Tomorrow, he will play the American Sam Querrey, who beat Kevin Anderson 5-7 7-6 6-3 6-7 6-3.
With Johanna Konta also winning her fourth-round match, Britain will have a man and a woman in the quarters here for the first time since 1973, when Roger Taylor and Virginia Wade both made it.
It will be familiar territory to Murray. In the Open era only Roger Federer, Jimmy Connors and Boris Becker have played in more quarter-finals here than the Scot.
There had been times when Murray's level had dipped against Fognini in the third round, but this time he struck the ball much better.
Paire, who was attempting to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time, lived up to his reputation as one of the most unpredictable players on tour. The 28-year-old Frenchman has plenty of talent, but his erratic forehand is a major liability and his shot selection can be woeful.
Although he hit some wonderful drop shots, some of them with vicious spin that had the ball bouncing backwards or shooting off at right-angles, Paire resorted to the tactic far too frequently. At other times he threw himself to the floor diving for impossible volleys
However, his two-handed backhand is a major weapon.
Paire made the first break of serve in the third game, converting his first break point with a stylish forehand volley. He promptly threw away the advantage with some eccentric choices of shot as Murray broke back immediately.
At 2-2, however, Murray dropped his serve when he netted a backhand following a fine approach shot by Paire. In keeping with the unpredictable nature of the opening set, Murray had been broken in two of his first three service games despite missing only one of his first 16 first serves.
Murray levelled at 4-4 with the fourth break of serve of the match. At 5-6 the Scot failed to convert two set points on Paire's serve, but Murray was utterly dominant in the ensuing tie-break, which he won 7-1.
Paire's frustration at ending the first set in such limp fashion was evident in the opening game of the second as he dropped his serve to love. The Frenchman broke back to level at 3-3, but at 4-4 he played another poor game. Murray served out for the set, though he had to save four break points before doing so.
When Paire went 0-40 down at 2-2 in the third set it seemed that the end might be swift, but the Frenchman dug deep to hold on to his serve and had a break point for a 5-3 lead when Murray served at 3-4.
Murray held firm, however, and when Paire served at 4-4 and 40-15 the pressure finally told on the Frenchman, who lost four points in a row, hitting a forehand long on the Scot's first match point.
Murray, after battling a hip injury before the tournament, added: "Two weeks ago I was a bit concerned. But I managed it well and I think I've played some good stuff."
Independent News Service