Clinical Murray overpowers weary Nishikori to book semi-final spot at Australian Open
Job done for Andy Murray, who in cooler temperatures here produced something less than sizzling hot performance to reach the Australian Open semi-finals with an ultimately comfortable victory over Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Pernickety thought it sounds with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 scoreline, the British No 1 will need to lift his game considerably from this if he is to survive what is sure to be a far sterner test against the winner of the later match between defending champion Novak Djokovic and world No 5 David Ferrer.
Impressive: Andy Murray breezed into his third successive Australian Open semi-final
Murray admitted as much afterwards,
especially when it comes to his serve, but the scorebook nonetheless
shows a convincing progression through a match in which he had
everything to lose, in contrast to a tricky and talented opponent.
And it should not be overlooked that
it represents the extension of a hugely impressive record of
consistency, which now seems him in the last four of a Grand Slam for
the seventh time out of nine, and the fifth consecutive in all.
That is not to be sniffed at and all
you can ever do is keep putting yourself in contention when it comes
towards the end of the fortnight when most others have gone home.
'I think I need to serve better, I
didn’t serve particularly well,” said Murray, who could only land in 44
per cent of his first delivery, a figure sure to be punished by his next
one or two opponents. “But my returning was good, that’s a positive and
there were some entertaining points.'
Too much: Nishikori had battled through three long matches to face Murray… and it showed
All that is true, and in the end it
was ample to see off the world number 26, whose shotmaking from the back
of the court and aggressive returning caused its share of problems,
more than the final score suggested.
At the same time Murray showed what
damage he can do with his own return, and there was barely a game when
he did not have the 22 -year-old Japanese in trouble when receiving.
There was also the proof that he is
being true to his word in playing tighter to the baseline, but overall
there was not the same quality on show as seen in the two quarter finals
in the previous 24 hours, from which Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Murray’s demeanour was slightly less
calm, too, due to the tension, but in some sense now a little pressure
is off, as he has yet again reached his allotted seeding position.
Backing: Nishikori had plenty of support in Melbourne
He wasted no time in carrying on from
where he left off against Mikhail Kukushkin, who he broke eight
straight times in the fourth round. After going 2-0 up there was a sign
of things to come when he needed to save two break points to consolidate
Another hairy moment presented
itself in the fifth game when Nishikori produced an incredible
‘tweener’ lob with his back to Murray that forced a stretched overhead,
which the Japanese thrashed away into the corner.
There were bountiful break points in
the match, the 24 year-old Scot converting seven out of 18 and his
opponent two out of 10. Eventually he served out the opener in 55
minutes, the length telling of a match closer than it might have looked.
With Nishikori having gone five sets
in the previous round it was going to be a long way back from there
against a player like Murray so skilled at working others around.
Tricky: Nishikori hits a shot through his legs (leg) and Murray uses his trademark 'hot dog' shot
Murray broke immediately in the
second set but again it did not herald a procession as in the next game
Nishikori finally capitalised on a break point, although it took a
flukey netcord to do so.
At 5ft 10in his serve is not as big
an asset as his groundstroking or mobility and the world number four was
all over it, moving in to attack anything short and eventually sealing
the set with another break.
Only when yet more breaks had been
traded at the start of the third did the turbo come on and, with his
opponent now tiring, Murray reeled the final set off in less than half
and hour to win in two hours and 12 minutes.
Keeping watch: Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears and coach Ivan Lendl
At times Murray’s previously
unruffleable temper looked close to going for the first time in this
tournament, but he stopped short of giving his bench the full hairdryer
treatment. This was a match just to get through and, truth be told, not a
particularly memorable one bar the odd flourish from the back of the
court. Next time it will have to be different.
Earlier there had been two more
encouraging wins for British juniors that saw Nottingham’s Josh
Ward-Hibbert and Yorkshire’s Kyle Edmund both reach the last eight.
The raw but powerful Ward-Hibbert
took out his second seed in a row, No 9 Nikola Milojevic from Serbia,
6-3 6-2. Edmund gutsed out a tiebreak 9-7 before beating Belgian 11th
seed Kimmer Coppejans 7-6 6-1.
Only downside: Murray struggled with his serve