Saturday 25 November 2017

Balance of power shifts as Murray marches on

Caroline Wozniacki returns a shot during her victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Caroline Wozniacki returns a shot during her victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Simon Briggs

As Andy Murray moves into his second-round match today against Marcel Granollers, he holds a position he has never experienced before, as the clear favourite for a grand slam event.

This was not the case going into the first round, because Novak Djokovic's long-standing dominance had left a kind of afterglow, like the blur of movement on an underexposed photo.

Everyone just assumed that Djokovic - who received a walkover into the third round yesterday after Jiri Vesely withdrew with a sore racket arm - would be all right on the first night.

But after the world No 1's skittish performance against Jerzy Janowicz, which contrasted with Murray's near-effortless dismantling of Lukas Rosol on Tuesday, the balance of power has shifted.

Murray admitted after his 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory that he had been "a bit apprehensive" about facing Rosol, adding: "He goes for his shots, has caused upsets in the past, and made it tough for some of the best players in the world."

Yet there were few signs of anxiety in Murray's 112-minute win, in which he faced not one break point. Since the return of Ivan Lendl to his player's box, he seems to have discovered the perfect balance between risk and reward - a way of forcing his opponents to breaking point without fuss.

Granollers is another familiar foe, whom Murray has beaten in their past five meetings. The Spaniard has established an unfortunate reputation as the worst grunter on the men's tour, but he can be entertaining in an unconventional way.

"No one plays like him really," said Murray. "He comes forward a lot and he has great hands and a really, really good feel. Although he doesn't have a lot of power from the back of the court, he uses a lot of spin on his forehand and then hits his backhand extremely flat."

Unusually for a Thursday at an overseas grand slam, Murray has two compatriots in action. Naomi Broady and her bazooka of a serve will come up against world No 4 Agnieszka Radwanska - a contrastingly light and delicate player who relies on touch and guile.

Then there is Dan Evans, who ousted Rajeev Ram on Tuesday and then admitted that he is eager to get home to Solihull after seven weeks on the road. In all probability, Alexander Zverev, the 27th seed, will set him on the road to the airport today.

But if Evans can somehow overcome the 19-year-old German, who has been tipped as a future world No 1, there should be a consolation: the extra 45 ranking points would carry him close to the world's top 50 for the first time.

On the court yesterday, former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, one point from falling behind 5-0 in the opening set, rallied to upset ninth-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets.


The unseeded Dane, slowed by injuries this season, took advantage of some sloppy play by the former US Open champion to post a 6-4 6-4 victory and advance to the third round.

"It was not looking good for me," Wozniacki said on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court after the match.

"I've been in this situation before. I was down 6-1 (actually 6-2), 4-1 (in the fourth round in 2009) to her once on this court, and I said 'I can do this, I can pull this through.' And I won last time and I won today and I'm really proud of that."

Wozniacki, twice a US Open runner-up, has struggled through ankle and arm injuries this season and came to Flushing Meadows ranked 74th in the world.

"I stopped looking at the ranking once I fell out of the top 10," said 26-year-old Wozniacki, who has endured a couple of down years. "I feel like I belong at the top.

"Today I beat someone who's been playing really well this year and that's definitely going to build my confidence." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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