Andy Murray was largely untroubled as he swept into the third round of the Australian Open, beating Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko in straight sets.
Marchenko was spirited throughout the match and broke Murray at one stage, but failed to grasp a cutting edge in losing 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.
After a routine first hold, Murray was the aggressor whilst returning, and pressured his tenacious opponent into hitting the net after a majestic slice. Murray stole the first break here to go 2-0 up.
The Scot was winning the gruelling cross-court battles and held with an ace to consolidate his break.Read more (584 words)
Marchenko battled bravely in the first set despite struggling to put his higher ranked opponent away during the longer rallies. With the Ukrainian at the net and running out of ideas, Murray pulled out a dipping backhand slice, which Marchenko fluffed well wide, handing his rival another break.
After the two men swapped service holds, Murray served out with his eighth ace of the match and deservedly took the set 6-1.
World number 79 Marchenko flew out of the blocks in the second and broke serve to lead 2-0. He looked in competitive mood and was taking the match to Murray with a mixture of abrasive crosscourt hitting and well chosen touch shots.
Murray then began to step up to the plate and force the issue. Marchenko showed his lack of experience with a baffling double fault, and then blazed an easy passing shot well out to give Murray a break of his own, leaving the score at 2-1 with the world number five about to serve.
The cobwebs re-appeared in an erratic performance from Marchenko, emphased when he lost his cool with the umpire after another debatable line-call. Murray pounced like a cat through Marchenko’s wide forehand, and took a second break at the first opportunity.
The set continued with Marchenko firing on all cylinders in terms of his brutal forehand, but with every dazzling winner, there came a shocking error. He failed to capitalise on two break points as the difference in ranking became highlighted once more.
Murray clinched the second set with another break after an authoritative return of serve, winning it 6-3.
The tension began to rise as both men held with ease until the sixth game of the third set. Dunblane-born Murray finally found a breakthrough when Marchenko’s inconsistent serve went elsewhere and a flurry of double-faults dripped from his racket. He swatted a limp forehand into the net, losing the game to love and gifting Murray a 4-2 lead.
Despite rarely getting out of third gear, Murray was now well into a groove. He held serve with his 15th and 16th aces of the match, and found himself 5-3 up and returning.
When serving to stay in the match, Marchenko faced an onslaught from Murray as he went for the jugular. The best shot of the match came at 15-15. Murray showed great speed, balance and agility to reach a seemingly lost cause, and then passed his opponent at the net after a low drop volley. Following a few wild misses, Murray lost the game and was forced to serve out.
Like so many times in the early stages of grand slams, Murray duly served out untroubled. After another energetic retrieval and a net chord sent from the heavens, Marchenko smashed a wicked Murray serve out to leave his opponent with final set 6-3.
It is still too early to tell where Murray is at in terms of winning the tournament. He was playing a big-hitting if one-dimensional player with little mental strength and experience. However, his coaching staff will be pleased with his accurate serving and forthright, aggressive tennis. Next for Murray is Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Saturday.