Friday 24 November 2017

Murray facing more sleepless nights as big hitters loom

Andy Murray clenches his fist after winning a point on his way to beating Grigor Dimitrov at Flushing Meadowsk. Photo: Darron Cummings / AP Photo
Andy Murray clenches his fist after winning a point on his way to beating Grigor Dimitrov at Flushing Meadowsk. Photo: Darron Cummings / AP Photo

Simon Briggs

Earplugs, an eyemask and lavender pillows might be the critical items to assist Andy Murray's pursuit of a second US Open title, after the Scot admitted that his dramatic improvement in the 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 clubbing of Grigor Dimitrov had stemmed from a good night's sleep.

As a city, New York is notorious for its insomnia. And Murray - despite his reluctance to visit anywhere racier than the Whole Foods Market - had been infected by the same symptom.

"I've slept badly here," he said. "I kept waking up, tossing and turning in the bed."

But then, with the street noise temporarily muted by the Labor Day holiday weekend, he put in a solid 12 hours on Sunday night and woke up a new man.

More uninterrupted rest will be essential if Murray is to continue his progress through a draw that would give most players sleepless nights.

Today's opponent, Kei Nishikori, has so much ball-striking talent that he brings the whole locker-room to an awestruck halt when he is on his game - and he clearly was against the huge-serving Ivo Karlovic in the fourth round, judging by an absurdly low tally of just two unforced groundstroke errors in the match.


If Murray should progress, next up will be a former grand slam champion in the semi-final - either Juan Martin del Potro or Stan Wawrinka, two men who can punch a hole through the backboard with their high-velocity groundstrokes.

Energy levels are a factor for everyone left in the tournament, but no one has played more than Murray since the end of the clay-court season - 23 completed matches, including three titles.

Murray described how he had received a pep talk from his coaching staff, Ivan Lendl and Jamie Delgado, who encouraged him to push on through the final few days of a gruelling six weeks away from home.

"It was like, 'Look, you've got a few days left here; give it everything you've got. Let's be professional as possible, work hard in practice, and go out there and fight. There's a break coming soon.' That was an important chat to have because I definitely was a bit flat a couple of days ago and I couldn't afford to let that happen against Grigor."

The results of Lendl's and Delgado's intervention could be seen in statistical form, as Murray's serve racked up numbers on the speed gun that he had never reached before - at least, not on a credible measuring device. His scores included a 138mph ace in the second set and a 141mph one to conclude the first. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

US Open,

Live, Eurosport, 4.30pm

Kerber makes most of Vinci foot fault

Second seed Angelique Kerber reached the semi-finals of the US Open with a comprehensive straight-sets win over Italian Roberta Vinci.

The 29-year-old German defeated the 2015 finalist 7-5, 6-0 after a foot fault on set-point in the opening set appeared to trip up Vinci.

The 33-year-old Italian broke Kerber three times in the opening set, but three times she allowed the German to immediately break back, including while serving at 5-4 for the set.

Kerber then went on to claim the decisive break to win the set after Vinci was called for a foot fault on her second serve before sarcastically applauding the line judge as she walked off the court.

The Italian never recovered and Kerber blasted through the second set in 24 minutes to clinch her place in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Ana Ivanovic has brought her season to an early end to address wrist and toe problems.

The former world number one has had a very disappointing year, winning just 15 matches and slipping from 16th in the rankings to 31st.

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