Andy Murray has taken another step towards the final. Well, given that he was playing the 6ft 10ins Ivo Karlovic, his second-round win was not so much a step in the right direction as a major mountaineering achievement. (Note to self: check with the historians who last won the title wearing crampons and armed with pitons, ice picks and carabiners.) But, still, Murray has safely negotiated his first major test, beating the massive man from Zagreb 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(4).
Apart from dropping his serve from 40-0 up in the opening game and being a little tentative on a couple of points in the second set tie-break, this was another outstanding display from Scotland’s finest. He ran and chased and never let a hint of a fraction of a whisper of a chance escape him.
He nailed his returns, he kept his service games as secure as Fort Knox (save for that first one, of course) and he sent his passing shots fizzing past Karlovic’s flailing racket time and again. In a little over three hours, Murray committed only eight unforced errors (and walloped 43 winners) – this was a controlled, aggressive and impressive display.
“I wonder what the odds were on that: two breaks of serve at the start of the match?” Tim Henman chirruped on the BBC as several members of the Tennis Integrity Unit hyperventilated in a back room. Any mention of gambling, betting and odds is tantamount to blasphemy in the rarefied circles of professional tennis, but you could see what dear old Tim meant: the bloke with one of the best serves in the business against the bloke with some of the best everythings in the business – neither of them would have been expected to fluff their lines like that in the first 14 points.
But once the initial nerves had been settled, the two men set about each other like heavyweights. Karlovic was serving ferociously – no surprise there – but he was also showing some delicate touches at the net. When he first burst into the limelight in 2003, beating the defending champion, Lleyton Hewitt, in the first round, he was little more than a serving machine but there is a lot more to the big man these days. Not that it was enough to stop Murray from making his way to the next round.
Even when he dropped the second set, Murray did not flinch and instead went on the attack again, breaking the big man’s serve at the start of the third. That took the wind out of the Croat’s sails for a while but back he came in the fourth to force the match into one last tie-break. This time, Murray made no mistake.
“Any match you just want to try to find a way to win,” Murray said. “It's not always about how you play. But today, I mean, you can't sort of judge necessarily how well you struck the ball or any stroke in particular. But you need to show good patience, mental strength. I think I did a good job of that today because I got off to a bad start and then I broke straightaway, straight back. Then after losing that tight second set, to get that break at the beginning of the third set was important as well. So I did a good job.”
Murray will face a more regular foe in the shape of Marcos Baghdatis on Saturday. In fact, he will know exactly what to expect from the jovial Cypriot as Baghdatis has been coached by Murray’s former guide, Miles Maclagan, for the past year.
“When I played Marcos last year in Tokyo it was a little bit weird having Miles there,” Murray said. “I played him again in Brisbane [at the start of this year] and felt much more comfortable playing against him. Now I wouldn't have thought it would have any bearing on the match really.”
And if Murray keeps playing as well as he has, Baghdatis will have his work cut out if he is to have much bearing on the match, either.