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Andy articles from the Times


Fair enough, but last time was a final when Andy choked as everyone saw including Novak. Since then things have been much closer in Rome and Cincy. My point is that Andy is not a pigeon for Novak the way Rafa is. Gilles Simon always causes problems for Novak and Tomic has even taken a set. Murray is the master of this style of varied tennis, it's not a great match up for Novak and his wins against Andy have often benefitted from him being that little bit more experienced. Again in a semi this time with a full on Murray after a cake walk draw he will have a shock to his system. I don't see Andy choking this time either.
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I'm not saying he's going to beat Novak but there shall be no destroying going on.
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Superstition has it that bad things are meant to happen in threes but in the new positive world of Andy Murray, why shouldn’t that be the case with good things as well? In which case, could a first mid-match smile from the often sulky Scot and some unusual post-victory humour be the portent for that long overdue Grand Slam title at the Australian Open?

On the evidence of three wins at Melbourne Park and a year-opening title in Brisbane, new coach Ivan Lendl has banished the grouchy behaviour that too often manifested itself in a torrent of invective aimed at Murray’s own support team. And as he moves into the second week of his mission to make it third time lucky in the year’s first major, after defeats in two previous finals, this new maturity augurs well.

Far more demanding encounters than the 6-4 6-2 6-0 romp past Michael Llodra await Murray and nobody should expect to hear too many more jokes from the teetotal Scot, who jokingly said he would celebrate a third successive victory by “getting hammered”. With on-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and defending champion Novak Djokovic apparently barring his path to another tilt at the title, Murray and his new mentor appreciate that only the best will do.

“Tonight it was great and I am feeling really good about things because the rest of my game clicked into place,” said a delighted Murray after his win in just one hour 49 minutes. “Because Llodra was having a bit of fun I was open to that, but most of the time you have to get your game face on and I’m 99% sure that in the next rounds there won’t be many laughs and joking around.”

First comes an unexpected fourth-round opponent, Mikhail Kukushkin, of Kazakhstan by way of Volgograd, who is ranked 92nd in world. He has never progressed as far in a major and switched nationality purely because of financial inducement, keeping down costs by employing his wife as his coach. “She doesn’t want to take my money from me; she is interested only in my results,” said Kukushkin, who overcome the 14th seed Gael Monfils 6-2 7-5 5-7 1-6 6-4 to book a swift rematch with Murray.

The pair last met earlier this month in the first round of the Brisbane tournament and Kukushkin did enough to eventually jolt Murray into action by bolting out to a 5-1 lead. His effective baseline game clinched the first set before the world’s fourth-ranked player responded and went on to win 5-7 6-3 6-2. Lendl arrived in Australia a couple of days later and the benefits of his presence have been obvious, but Murray will not take his next opponent lightly

He was very good when I played him,” recalled Murray. “In fact, for the first six games he was unbelievable and hardly missed a ball. He’s won a couple of long five-setters and obviously he’s in good shape. I need to keep improving, do things a bit better each round. Tonight I did a lot of things better, so I look forward to the next one.”

Britain’s great hope was not alone in producing an exemplary performance. Djokovic tortured another unfortunate Frenchman who was celebrating his 30th birthday, taking just 74 minutes to crush Nicolas Mahut 6-0 6-1 6-1. Tsonga was only marginally less emphatic as he thrashed Portugal’s Frederico Gil 6-2 6-2 6-2 and prompted memories of his run to the 2008 final that began with a first-round win over Murray.
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Ryan Harrison was not the only one left feeling cheated. From the minute the draw for the BNP Paribas Open was made, the American teenager was working himself into a lather at the prospect of playing Andy Murray, who had ground him down in the opening round of the Australian Open in January. Guillermo García-López got there first.

In the crushing aftermath of a defeat totally unexpected after Murray’s win over Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, in Dubai the week before last, there was much gallows humour in the press room and a look of the condemned man on Murray’s face. Could this really be the Murray who on the day before the championships said he had never hit the ball better?

The British No 1 was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by García-López. If it was true that the Spaniard, once a top-30 player and now in the nineties because he has been injured so much in the past year, played cutting-edge tennis, this was another of those “did that really happen?” moments with which Murray watchers are terribly familiar.

It was made worse, of course, because of his profoundly upbeat nature in the days preceding the event. After practice against the Tomas Berdych on Thursday, he announced himself in the best of shape in every way, mentally, physically and with the structure of his ball-striking and technique. He had, indeed, looked frighteningly good. The following day, on the back courts against Kei Nishikori for another practice set, he was a long way second best and was seen grinding the rim of his racket into the court surface.

We thought — he thought — he had got losses such as this out of his system at this stage in 2011 when he was beaten in this first of nine Masters 1000 events by Donald Young, an American qualifier.

The same thing happened in the second event in Miami and thus, a year on, that he had no ranking points to defend meant these two tournaments were potentially rich harvests.
Yes, the courts here are profoundly slower than Dubai, the balls fluff up at night and thus it is more difficult to penetrate a player’s defences, but Murray was simply no match for García-López. The Spaniard played quite beautifully, his flowing single-handed backhand working in harmony with a forehand that did not err. But even he may have wondered how Murray twice allowed him to wriggle off the hook when love-40 to the good on the García-López serve.
That is when the best turn the screw; scent the opponent’s anxiety and go in for the kill. That is what Murray usually does. Here, though, he was incredibly tense and barely made the net with a couple of backhand returns. All night, his backhand was way off. Nothing was coming naturally to this most natural of players.

Lucky, in one sense, for Ivan Lendl that he had decided to miss this championship otherwise he would have been vigorously pursued to ask what went wrong with his charge. Murray had to face the music on his own and seemed as much at a loss for words as he had been at a loss on the court.

“Last year, it was easier for me to look at it and know what happened, but I’ve had losses before and I’ve come back better,” he said, knowing that at the next event, Lendl will be on the practice court, demanding more.

It was not a tournament which provided any encouragement for the British game, which we keep hearing is on the up. Laura Robson and Heather Watson did not muster a set in qualifying, neither did James Ward; in the event proper, Elena Baltacha managed to win a round, Anne Keothavong was beaten in a match she ought to have won and now Murray has departed, from the singles at least. That is six competitors, three sets, one victory and nobody left.

Fortunately, Philip Brook, the chairman of the All England Club, and Tim Henman, who popped into the event to schmooze a few days ago and then played a couple of rounds of golf together, had left the area before it all got rather messy on Saturday night.
They might have found sitting in the stands a very uncomfortable experience
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