Monday, 19 January 2015

Andy's understated but effective opening

For once not as much mentioned in the press leading into the Australian Open, the three time finalist Andy Murray is for very good reason rated a significant factor in the 2015 version of the Down Under major.  His complicated 2014 was messed around through a combination of injury, inconsistency and a lack of direction early in the piece, but compensated late with a flurry of excellent results including confidence building victories.

His position in the Federer half of the draw is heartening given his lack of success in recent times against Djokovic and his ability to match it usually with the Swiss champion these days.

Before reaching the second week though Murray would have the early rounds to navigate, and the first opponent would be India's Yuki Bhambri.

Murray, the sixth seed, began well enough, his forehand in fine touch and he held serve to lead 1-0.  His less favoured opponent struck some quite acceptable ground shots in response to back up an adequate serve, and games were tied for the first time in the match.

Andy separated himself from Bhambri by mixing his game up, introducing a lob here and there to break the monotony of cross court feuding and the effect was almost immediate with a break of the Indian serve for a 3-1 lead.  This quickly became 4-1 before Bhambri loosened up and displayed more of his set of skills, setting up points with guile and deft touch to add to his obvious abilities off the ground.

At 4-2 Murray let his guard down and the confident Bhambri assisted the Scot to be broken for the first time.  Andy stopped the bleeding, and with a withering backhand down the line set up a break point.  This one was saved, but not the one which ultimately won the game for Murray, providing him a 5-3 advantage and the chance to serve the set out.

Despite a hard test from the Indian player Murray was successful in passing his first set examination 6-3, answering enough questions from Bhambri correctly.

The second set featured some mostly standard fare tennis sometimes interrupted by exhilarating passing shots and enterprising tennis to please the masses.  Both players made contributions to the show, but Murray always appeared to have a little extra in hand when required.  Bhambri led 3-2 before the sixth seed fired off 3 successive games, eventually wrapping up the set 6-4, and giving us wonderful samples of his running forehand down the line and cross court winners en route to the two set lead.

As if to subject his legion of fans to unnecessary suffering, Andy surrendered his serve to Yuki in the fourth game of the third set.  Rather than pack up his gear and head for Tullamarine, Bhambri had decided that a two set deficit was a reason to stay and his level of tennis picked up markedly.  Consolidating the break with free flowing shot making he led 4-1 and the prospect of a fourth set appeared bright.  

Not for long however as Andy regrouped pretty much as expected and levelled the set at 4-4.

A tight period of tennis followed with neither player able to take any opportunities, and Murray held serve to ensure a tie break would determine the fate of the set.

Sadly the first point of the breaker was a Bhambri double fault, and that mistake virtually ended his chances,  Murray holding all his points on serve, and winning another on Bhambri's as insurance.  The sixth seed won the set and the match 6-3 6-4 7-6 (3), but the effort of the young Indian player was commendable and he does have potential to go much higher in world rankings in the future.

Murray did enough to suggest that this Open would see him featured at the pointy end.

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