Andy Murray came from 2-5 and set point down to beat the 29th seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(3), 6-3, in a match remarkably similar to their previous encounter in the Brisbane final.
The Bulgarian provided a far tougher contest than Murray’s opening match, but after double faulting thrice when trying to serve out the first set, the match started to turn and the second seed fought back to seal his place in the fourth round. It wasn’t a pretty performance from the British number one, but after another slow start he stepped it up and got the job done in straight sets.
Dimitrov showed his firepower from the off, bringing up a break point after a couple of flashy winners from 40-0 down. But Murray’s resilience came to the fore, and he fended off the danger to get on to the board.
Both players had started strong and it was signified by the stunning rally at the start of the third game, ultimately ending with a Murray volley drifting into the tramlines. The Scot responded with a trademark passing shot winner a couple of points later as both players tried to assert their dominance.Read more (602 words)
But, as in Brisbane, it was the young Bulgarian who made the first move. Taking advantage of a double fault from Murray, he earned himself another break point opportunity and this time he did take it; pouncing on a short second serve and forcing Murray well behind the baseline, before firing a powerful forehand beyond the Brit.
Dimitrov looked to be cruising as he moved 40-0 up in the following service game, but a double fault seemed to throw him off and he quickly found himself down break point. The 29th seed responded positively but another stunning passing shot from Murray forced a second break point, and a wild volley from Dimitrov allowed Murray to break straight back.
The Bulgarian’s aggression continued to force Murray beyond the baseline as the Brit struggled to live with his raw power. Dimitrov was dictating with his forehand, and after earning yet more break points he regained the lead with a beautiful drop shot and touch volley combo. And this time he did consolidate, holding to love to open up a 5-2 lead. The Scot seemed to be at a loss, and a missed smash followed by a double fault opened up a set point for the Bulgarian. But he staved off the danger with some brilliant defensive play, forcing Dimitrov to serve for the set.
But as against Djokovic in Indian Wells two weeks ago, the Bulgarian got tight. Alarm bells were ringing as he found himself down 0-30, and although he seemed to have rescued it at 30-30, a double fault put him straight back in danger. A missed forehand from Murray seemed to let him off the hook, but consecutive double faults allowed Murray back into the set. This time the Brit followed it up with a straight-forward hold, and the match was all square at 5-5.
A hold apiece saw the set head to a tie-break, much as in their most recent meeting in Brisbane. This one proved to be a lot closer however, with both players neck and neck at the change of ends. But it was Murray who took control, taking the breaker 7-3 after a third consecutive Dimitrov error.
The US Open champion started the second set far stronger than the second, and this time it was he who looked to take the early initiative. Dimitrov fended off a couple of break points with some good net play, but Murray was relentless and the Bulgarian eventually netted on the third.
Dimitrov was desperately trying to find a way back into the match, but Murray’s serve was finally making an appearance, and the Brit eventually held for 3-0 after a marathon game. The Bulgarian seemed to be running out of fight, and a couple of lacklustre errors at 4-1 handed Murray break points to effectively seal the match. But Dimitrov managed to dig his way out of trouble, aided by a net cord winner, to keep his hopes hanging by a thread.
The Scot wasn’t easing up, and after an hour and 50 minutes he found himself with two match points. But just when the match seemed to be over, there was some late drama. Dimitrov hit a beautiful lob on the first match point, and following a double fault on the second, Murray then found himself break point down. But his serve once again came to the rescue, firing down his ninth ace before eventually sealing the win after a Dimitrov error.
In the fourth round Murray will face the 16th seed Andreas Seppi. These two haven’t contested since 2010, with Murray holding a 4-1 lead in the head-to-head.