Tuesday 12 December 2017

Djokovic form does not faze me – Murray

Andy Murray celebrates after beating Denis Istomi
Andy Murray celebrates after beating Denis Istomi

Paul Newman

On the basis of their form so far at the US Open, it is no surprise that the bookmakers consider Novak Djokovic a better bet than Andy Murray to win the title next Monday.

It is equally no surprise that Murray, who is seeded to meet Djokovic in the semi-finals, brushes aside talk of favourites.

"I always say that in tennis, as in any individual sport, it doesn't really matter what happened two days ago," Murray said in the wake of his fourth-round victory over Denis Istomin, the world No 65.

"You turn up on the day of the next match and you might feel awful. You never know. It doesn't matter how you've played up to this point. You can always get better – or get worse.

"I saw some of Novak's match today. It looked like he played extremely well. But the matches will get tougher now."

While Murray needed more than three hours to beat Istomin 6-7 6-1 6-4 6-4, Djokovic took just 79 minutes to trounce the No 43 Marcel Granollers 6-3 6-0 6-0.

Djokovic, who dropped only four games in the previous round against Joao Sousa and has won all four of his matches in straight sets, will be strong favourite to win his quarter-final today against the world No 24 Mikhail Youzhny, who needed four hours to overcome Lleyton Hewitt.

Murray, who has dropped sets against Istomin and Leonardo Mayer, faces a significantly tougher quarter-final against Stanislas Wawrinka, the world No 10, who knocked out Tomas Berdych.

Wawrinka has long lived in the shadow of his countryman Roger Federer, but at the present rate the 28-year-old could overtake his Swiss Davis Cup doubles partner in the rankings by the end of the year.

Deny

This is the first time that he has gone further in a Grand Slam tournament than Federer and it is by no means inconceivable that he could be the man to deny his friend a place in the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.

This has been the best year of Wawrinka's career.

He has played in four finals, winning one, reached the quarter-finals at the French Open and went closer to denying Djokovic the Australian Open title than anyone, losing a five-hour marathon after the world No 1 won the fifth set 12-10.

The other side of the draw opened up somewhat as fourth-seed David Ferrer was beaten in five sets by eighth-seed Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-1 4-6 2-6 6-3 as the Frenchman booked his spot in the last eight.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams' 6-0 6-0 victory over Carla Suarez Navarro might have been a coup for the defending women's champion, but it hardly portrayed the sport in the most positive light.

This was the first 'double bagel' in a grand slam quarter-final since the 1989 US Open, when Martina Navratilova inflicted a clean sweep on Manuela Maleeva, and only the second in the Open era.

Williams and Navratilova are both clearly giants of the game. Many would argue they are the two best female players in history.

Yet the fans who had splashed out between $76 and $895 for quarter-final tickets in Arthur Ashe Stadium must have expected more than a 52-minute rout.

Clearly, though, there is a depth problem in women's tennis. Since the withdrawal of Maria Sharapova – whose agent, Max Eisenbud, says she may take the rest of the year off to recover from inflammation in her serving shoulder – the bookmakers have made Williams such a strong favourite that she is practically unbackable.

The 31-year-old Williams, aiming to become the oldest US Open women's winner since tennis turned professional in 1968, has lost just 13 games in her five matches.

Fifth-seeded Li Na provided something special by breaking another barrier for Chinese tennis. The 31-year-old Li became China's first semi-finalist at the US Open by beating Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-2. (© Independent News Service)

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