This was a huge step up in class for former World No.1 Andy Murray, who had firstly knocked out Chinese wildcard entrant Zhang Zhizhen in his opening round match, but dealt with everything that No. 1 seed David Goffin threw at him to prevail in what was mostly a comfortable straight sets win.
Murray has had his fare share of dominance in this particular match-up, having never lost a set to the World No.11 Goffin and he did show his confidence in their head-to-head when he broke in the fourth game of the first set and quickly found some continuity on his first serve to consolidate that break of serve to go up 4-1 in the opening set. The Belgian did manage to salvage a break of serve back, but the three-time Grand Slam champion Murray reasserted himself and finished the set off with a flourish.
The key factor was Murray’s ability to be able to depend on a first serve when it mattered. Goffin tried to keep his head afloat by upping the pace and varying his serve constantly in the second set, but he simply did not have the reliable first serve weapon that Murray can search for in times of need. Murray quickly rattled together five of the first six games of the second set, but had a bit of a wobble before closing the match with three aces in a row to end in style.
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Murray now prepares for another huge test against a former Grand Slam semi-finalist in Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard is one of the very few left-handers on tour that has managed to get multiple match-wins over the Brit and those two wins have come at majors, the most recent one in the second round of the US Open earlier this year. Murray will be fully aware of the highs that Verdasco can really create on a tennis court, even now he is approaching the twilight of his career. The Verdasco forehand is still one of the biggest single shots in the men’s game and that is the side he relies on to still score those big wins at the age of 34.
Murray will also know that he simply has to remain consistent, whether the Verdasco storm and wait for his moment to pounce. The key to facing Verdasco is to be present mentally when his inspired level moves southwards, which is something that happens regularly during most of his matches. If the Spaniard had the Murray’s consistency, then he may have stopped the Big 4 dominance of major titles in the last decade.
It should be a close match between one of the game’s best defensive players taking on one of the hardest ball-strikers, but Murray will be itching to get to the business end of a tournament that he won four years ago.
Prediction: Murray in three sets
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