In an all Brit clash, and their first encounter, British No. 3 Cameron Norrie put up a solid fight against the former World No. 1 and three time Slam champion Andy Murray. Murray picked up his first back to back win this year at a tour level, having won two matches on the bounce in the Mallorca Challenger during the US Open.
The first set was a tight one, with Murray the first to break at the end of the set, only to lose the advantage straight away, as Norrie hung on to force a tie-break. Murray stretched ahead, although he took four set points to get the job done.
The second set had a few more twists and turns in it with Murray pressing but unable to get ahead with a couple of chances to break, and perhaps that buoyed Norrie as he converted a chance for the lead in the second set on his first take. Murray had to wait a couple of games to peg him back but by now was looking extremely weary, and Norrie was by far the more comfortable in the longer rallies.
The tie-break was extremely nervy with mini-breaks being swapped in all directions before Norrie hit a run for three set points, levelling the match and leaving many wondering if Murray would have anything at all left in the tank.
The answer was a resounding yes. Murray admitted after the match that he was shortening his points as he reeled off five games in a show before Norrie finally rallied to get on the board. It was a step too far to come back at Murray who now advances to his first quarter-final since Shenzhen a year ago.
As reported in ATPTour.com, Murray said: “The good thing about tennis is that you can change strategy and tactics. I think if you watched the end of the second set, pretty much the whole of the third set, I tried to keep the points short. I started coming to the net a lot more. My feeling was that the average rally length went down by quite a few shots.
“In the third set, I didn’t really feel like out of breath after any of the rallies, whereas in the middle of the second set, I felt like there’s three or four games where we were playing a lot of long points, but he was also dictating the rallies.”
Up next for the Brit is the top seed, and now two-time Slam finalist Dominic Thiem. The Austrian predictably was impressive throughout the clay court season, but after a surprising first round exit in Wimbledon, he sought comfort in… you guessed it… the post Wimbledon dirt. What little momentum he had going into the hard court swing, he then promptly lost with another first round defeat in a Slam – this time the US Open.
It has, of course, been a while since Thiem and Murray have faced each other, back in 2017 where Thiem got his first win over the Brit in Barcelona. Their hard court encounters were both won by Murray.
Things are ever so slightly different with Murray making his way back, and Thiem now firmly established in the top ranks for the last few years. If Murray was made to work hard against Norrie, he can expect more of the same against Thiem who plays aggressively from the baseline, but can defend just as well. He has a pretty complete game with an effective serve, heavy groundies and can come in and volley well and much like Murray, he will construct his points to coax the error from his opponents.
Murray would do well to maybe change up his strategy from the start, or certainly earlier in the match in terms of shortening the points, but his go to will always be to chase everything down, all the live long day. The pair have never had a short match – expect this to be a three set grinder.
Prediction: Thiem in three sets.
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Current British No. 2 Dan Evans has to wait another week before his attempts to take the British No. 1 spot after a tight straight sets defeat to John Isner. In the first arguably Evans was the better player, having the only two break points chances in the first set, and was visibly frustrated in the tie-breaker to miss a chance to edge ahead, only for Isner to break just twice for the set.
Evans did well to hang in there in the second set, falling foul of a single break point for Isner, finishing the week up just behind Kyle Edmund, who was defending semi-final points this week, before crashing out in his opener.
Murray and Thiem are scheduled on Diamond Court not before 2:30pm (7:30am BST).
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