By Dave Gertler
(August 14, 2014) MASON, OHIO – Two of the three Big Four players competing at this year’s Cincinnati Masters played their third-round matches during Thursday’s day sessions. One survived, one didn’t.
“The focus is winning right now,” said a composed Andy Murray after his 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(2) win over John Isner, “Not so much how I’m hitting the ball or moving or anything like that. Just trying to win. That’s all that’s important just now.”
Since winning Wimbledon last year, Murray has seen his rank plunge from No. 2 to No. 9. First struggling with back surgery rehab, and then adjusting to a new coaching situation. He has regained peak physical condition, but collated a mixture of results that has not seen him advance past the semi-finals of any tournament in the last 14 months.
“I want to get back to winning events and being in the finals of the big tournaments,” said Murray, “And winning matches like today is a big step for me.” He and his opponent John Isner, last year’s Western & Southern Open runner-up, played for 2 hours and 23 minutes in front of a Grandstand Court that was packed to the rafters.
“Sort of like standing room only,” said Isner, who served 21 aces to Murray’s 14, “You could see people on Center Court at the top looking over and watching. It was great. The fans were unbelievable. I thought they were on my side the whole way, and they were.”
After losing the first set tiebreak, Murray then broke Isner for the only break of the match, holding on to win the second set. Then, with the sun in his eyes, serving to stay in the match, Murray served two double faults, allowing Isner his first of two match points. “When it’s 6‑5 in the third set,” said Murray, “Ideally you want to try and get some free points when you can. Maybe made a slight mistake trying to do that. Yeah, but I just managed to find a way to get through that game.”
While Murray cited “instinct” as what guided him to a third-set tiebreak, which he would ultimately win to advance to the quarterfinals, fellow Big Four member Novak Djokovic has faltered at the round-of-16 stage of his second consecutive hard court Masters 1000 event. The world No.1, who last bowed out in the third round in Toronto, today lost in straight sets to 16th seed Tommy Robredo.
“Just many, many, many things are not clicking these two weeks on hard courts,” said Djokovic, who fought back from being a break down to Robredo in the first set, before losing it in a tiebreak. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s more than obvious I’m not playing even close to what I’m supposed to play.”
In the second set, Djokovic was unable to make a dent on Robredo’s serve, winning only four points while receiving. While Djokovic was able to save two match points, serving at 4-5, Robredo would convert at his next opportunity, taking the second set 7-5.
“Well, maybe he didn’t play very good the last two matches that he played,” said Robredo after his second career win over a world No.1 – the first was against Lleyton Hewitt in 2003, “But anyway, he’s the world No. 1. He won in Wimbledon. He’s a great player. If you don’t play your best you’re gonna lose for sure. Even if you play your best, sometimes if he’s playing great, you’re gonna lose also.”
While Djokovic will head straight to New York to prepare for the US Open, where he is defending finalist, Murray will face either Gael Monfils or Roger Federer, who play their third-round match on Center Court this evening.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .