By Alana Mitchelson
(January 18, 2014) MELBOURNE – Andy Murray has overcome Feliciano Lopez in straight sets, 7-6(7-2) 6-4 6-2, after holding his own in an especially thrilling first set that almost had the air of a final decider at the Australian Open..
Lopez’s cocky, energetic game put Murray’s recovery from back surgery to its first true test, forcing him to make use of the full court. But the Scotsman did well to embrace the challenges posed at him by hitting winners left-right-and-centre, reaching for low balls and deflecting ambitious lobs with incredible overhead winners.
The Spaniard was capable of producing fierce aces straight down the middle line of the service box to protect Murray’s break point advantages, especially in the first set, and in fact hit more winners than his victorious opponent on the day. He merely had difficulty maintaining that initial level of intensity to the very end.
“He served incredibly well on the breakpoints,” Murray said.
“He served maybe four aces – huge serves, 205, 210 kilometres an hour. That can be frustrating because I wasn’t having a say in those breakpoints.”
Murray’s backhand worked against him at times, but he made up for his occasional mishits and falters at the net by rising to the occasion when it mattered most.
Lopez in fact hit more winners than the No. 4 seed during the match overall but, in saying that, he had a few lucky shots whereby his mean forehand drives clipped the tape and rolled right up and over over the net, dropping short on the opposite side.
After clasping success over the initial tie-break hurdle, Murray followed his fine form through to the second and third sets. He established early breaks and held, to maintain his stellar head-to-head record against the Spaniard.
”Today was a big step up for me. Feliciano is a top 30 player. He’s a tricky opponent to play. I know I have a good record against him, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s not an easy guy to play against. Very different type of opponent to what you normally face. So it was a good test for me and I did well.”
The three-time Australian Open finalist is set to face lucky loser Stephane Robert to secure a place in the quarterfinals.
”I know him (Robert) a little bit, when I was coming through the futures and challengers. And playing in Europe and in the UK, I’ve seen him play a little bit then. But that’s obviously quite a while ago now.
“But it’s good to see. He’s obviously 33 years old. Could be easy to stop playing, you know, if you’re not in the top hundred or necessarily making a great living. But it does show if you stick at it, you’re professional and when your chance comes, you take it, you can do great things. Great for him. Good for tennis as well.”