Murray closes in on final

FIRED UP: Andy Murray is to play a US Open quarterfinal match against Japan’s Kei Nishikori today Picture: EPA
FIRED UP: Andy Murray is to play a US Open quarterfinal match against Japan’s Kei Nishikori today
Picture: EPA

In-form Scot tipped to beat Nishikori in quarterfinals today

Andy Murray contests his sixth US Open quarterfinal today, looking to maintain his stranglehold over Kei Nishikori and take a step closer to a dream title showdown with Novak Djokovic.

The Scot reached the quarterfinal with a brutal dismissal of Grigor Dimitrov, where he lost just five games.

Murray crushed the Bulgarian 6-1 6-2 6-2 and clocked up a personal fast-serve record in the process.

From the moment Murray broke for a 3-1 lead in the first set, on the back of a lung-busting 32-shot rally, the outcome of the Arthur Ashe Stadium clash was never in doubt.

For good measure, Murray sent down his fastest serve yet – 226.9km/h. “I once hit a 145mph [233km/h] serve in San Jose, but they recalibrated the machine the next day so it didn’t count.

“Tonight was the first time I have gone above 140,” the 29-year-old said. “It was lucky . . . and I doubt I’ll ever do it again.”

Dimitrov broke only once in the match, in the fourth game of the second set, but it was a brief respite as Murray quickly reclaimed it before taking 10 of the next 12 games to seal the rout.

Dimitrov had 43 unforced errors as Murray set up a last-eight clash with Japanese sixth seed Nishikori, the 2014 runner-up who had downed 37-year-old Ivo Karlovic 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7/4).

Karlovic fired 21 aces in the contest, but Nishikori’s 44 winners and a miserly seven unforced errors proved the key.

“It’s never easy facing someone serving like Ivo, never easy to return those kind of serves,” Nishikori said.

“But I tried to stay down. I have been returning well, so that also helped today.

I think I played one of the best matches — serve, return, groundstrokes,” he said.

Murray won the first of his three career majors at the US Open in 2012 and will be the favourite to make a fourth semifinal at the season’s last grand slam.

The world No 2 has a 7-1 record against Japan’s Nishikori, whose only win over the Scotsman came at the World Tour Finals in 2014.

This year, Murray came out on top in five sets to help steer Britain past Japan in the Davis Cup, before cantering to a straight sets win in the Olympics semifinals.

All in all, Murray is on a 26-1 run since losing the French Open final to Djokovic in June, collecting the Queen’s Club, Wimbledon and Olympic titles on the way.

But he will not underestimate Nishikori, who made the final in New York in 2014, having knocked out Djokovic in the semifinals.

“Nishikori played well at the Olympics and won the bronze,” Murray said. “I played a really good match against Kei in Rio and I’ll need to do that again if I want to beat him, because he’s one of the best players in the world. He plays extremely well on hard court.”

Djokovic was due to target his 10th successive semifinal appearance late yesterday (early this morning SA time), as he faced ninth-seed rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, one of three Frenchmen in the last-eight. World No 1 Djokovic, the champion in New York in 2011 and last year, has hardly broken sweat in the first four rounds.

He needed four sets to beat Jerzy Janowicz in his first match before he enjoyed a walkover in the second, an injury-enforced retirement in the third followed by a comfortable win over Briton’s Kyle Edmund in the last-16.

In yesterday’s other men’s quarterfinal, Lucas Pouille, who knocked out 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal in five sets on Sunday, faced French compatriot Gael Monfils.

It is the first time since 1927 that three Frenchmen have reached the last-eight in New York.

Meanwhile, Djokovic, looking for his third major of the year, boasts a remarkable record in New York.

As well as his two titles, the 29year-old was runner-up in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013. He was a semifinalist in 2005, 2006 and 2014.

The Serb had a 15-6 winning record (before the match) against Tsonga, a run stretching back to their first meeting in the 2008 Australian Open final.

“I’m feeling very good. I didn’t have much time on the court overall before the fourth round,” Djokovic said.

“Considering I had some struggles [on his wrist] before the tournament, I feel great at this moment physically; mentally as well I’m motivated.”

Monfils beat Pouille, 22, in their only meeting – in five sets in the first round of last year’s Australian Open.

But Pouille is grand-slam hardened, having made a maiden Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon.

It is the third quarterfinal in New York for Monfils, who turned 30 on September 1.

In his last appearance at that stage in 2014, he squandered a two sets lead against Roger Federer.

In today’s other quarterfinal, 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro, ranked at 142 but on the comeback trail, after three wrist surgeries, tackle third-seed Stan Wawrinka, a former Australian and French Open winner.

Del Potro, the lowest-ranked quarterfinalist in 25 years, has a 4-2 headto-head record over the 31-year-old Swiss, including an impressive win at Wimbledon earlier this year.

However, the two have never met on hard courts.

The quarterfinal has been dubbed as a battle between Del Potro’s hammer of a forehand and Wawrinka’s precision backhand.

“It’s going to be good challenge,” Wawrinka, in his fourth successive US Open quarterfinal and is a two-time semifinalist, said.

“It is going to be important to try to dictate and be aggressive on the court.”

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