Andy Murray moved into the fourth round of Wimbledon today with a hard fought and far from convincing 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(4) victory over Ivan Ljubicic.
The start of the match was delayed by rain and Murray found himself playing under cover once again. Ljubicic is widely regarded as having one of the finest first and second deliveries on the tour, and this shot has enabled him to remain competitive at the relatively advanced age of 32. Unlike the Ivo Karlovic's of the world, the Croatian also posesses a solid baseline and net game.
This combination of strengths goes some way to explaining why in six previous encounters Murray had only won three, losing the most recent match in Beijing last year. The Scot is undeniably a world class returner, but his tendency to gift service breaks to his opponents makes this a bad match up.Read more (344 words)
Murray has struggled with his forehand throughout the tournament and this shot continued to misfire at inopportune times. Facing a breakpoint in the seventh game, the Scot thrashed a mid court ball into the net.
Ljubicic's advantage was short lived. At 30-40 in the very next game he inexplicably double faulted, handing the break straight back. Murray subsequently held, and the Croatian crumbled when serving to stay in the set.
Any thoughts of Murray cantering to victory were quickly extinguished when he immediately dropped serve in the first game of the second set. The Scot was unable to fashion a break of his own, and Ljubicic held his nerve to seal the set.
World class players are able to raise their games when the situation demands, and Murray immediately upped his level and raced into a 5-0 lead in the third set. Ljubicic was able to get on the scoreboard and avoid the dreaded bagel, but Murray cooly served it out for a two sets to one advantage.
Ljubicic re-established himself in the fourth set, but some ill judged approaches coupled with some trademark Murray passing shots saw him slip a break behind in the fifth game. Murray was now in full flow and a repeat of the between-the-legs shot first seen at Queens had the crowd in raptures.
Pride comes before a fall and Murray was broken when serving for the match at 5-4. A sequence of powderpuff second serves gave Ljubicic a break point, before a booming ace was overruled by the chair umpire. Murray chose not to challenge despite subsequent replays showing the ball was clearly in. The second delivery sat up and begged to be spanked, and the Croatian duly obliged.
The reprive was short lived as Murray again raised his level in the tiebreak, sealing the match with a thumping crosscourt forehand.
Next up is Richard Gasquet on Monday, at a time to be confirmed. The Frenchman has yet to drop a set and Murray will need to improve his serve and forehand to advance to the Quarter Final.