NEW YORK : Andy Murray was the last man to move through to the second round of the US Open, and by some margin the most impressive. In an utterly controlled display on Arthur Ashe Stadium, he rolled the dangerous Czech maverick Lukas Rosol with ease: 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. His status as tournament favourite is strengthening all the time.
The contrast with Novak Djokovic’s skittish display on Monday night could hardly have been more dramatic. Murray was moving freely and purposefully from the first point on a court that suits his precision game. Even though Rosol possesses some of the most powerful groundstrokes on the tour, he found it difficult to pierce Murray’s defensive armour, and was forced to overhit, coughing up no fewer than 45 unforced errors in three sets.
What was important, though, was that Murray did not settle for the passive tactics he used in New York last year. Twelve months ago, he arrived here short of mental and physical energy, and you could see the result in the way he placed his forehand cautiously rather than hitting through the ball.
Against Rosol, by contrast, the ruthlessness was striking. Murray stood toe-to-toe in the baseline rallies, and occasionally sallied forward to the net, without ever seeming forced or hurried. 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.
Djokovic has mastered this magic trick better than anyone over the past five seasons. Yet, now that Djokovic has temporarily lost his rhythm and physical invulnerability, Murray appears well placed to step into the breach. He is carrying plenty of miles in his legs after a busy summer, yet this contest only lasted 1hr 52mins, and will leave him fresh for his second-round match against Spain’s Marcel Granollers on Thursday. The whole locker-room is instinctively looking to him now as the king of the courts.
“He came out going for his shots,” said Murray at the end of a match that featured no break points against his serve.
Results: 2nd rd: Men: Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Jiri Vesely (CZE) walkover; Kevin Anderson (RSA x23) bt Vasek Pospisil (CAN) 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 6-4; Kyle Edmund (GBR) bt Ernesto Escobedo (USA) 7-5, 6-4, 6-4. Women: Belinda Bencic (SUI x24) bt Andrea Petkovic (GER) 6-3, 6-2; Roberta Vinci (ITA x7) bt Christina McHale (USA) 6-1, 6-3; Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) bt Wang Yafan (CHN) 7-5, 6-3; Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) bt Evgeniya Rodina (RUS) 6 7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-2; Petra Kvitova (CZE x14) bt Çagla Büyükakçay (TUR) 7-6 (7/2), 6-3; Elina Svitolina (UKR x22) bt Lauren Davis (USA) 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.