Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka Advance – 2016 Australian Open
Rod Laver Arena did not see any competitive matches in the morning/afternoon session on Day 4 of the 2016 Australian Open. In Thursday’s opening match, former World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic defeated Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-3. Garbine Muguruza followed suit with a routine straight sets win over Kirsten Flipkens, and then Andy Murray took to the main show court to close out the session.
Murray had drawn Sam Groth in the second round, a very large server and Australian national on the men’s tour. Groth, who has made few headlines in his career, would have been keen to repeat his 2015 showing at Melbourne Park having made the tournament’s third round last season. However, Murray made very light work of Groth on Thursday, defeating him in about 90 minutes 6-0, 6-4, 6-1.
Andy Murray made it clear before the Australian Open began that he would return to the UK to be with his wife Kim if she went into labor with the couple’s first child — even if he had to play a semifinal or final.
Prior to their second-round match in Melbourne, his opponent Sam Groth quipped: “Be nice if his wife went into labor overnight. I might just be cheering for that one.”
There will be tougher tests for Murray, assuming he doesn’t have to rush back home — the baby is due the second week of February — but he put in a stunning performance against the player who took a set off Roger Federer at Wimbledon a year ago.
Murray repelled Groth’s huge deliveries, picked off the world No. 67 at the net and authored winning lobs with his opponent left stranded.
For tennis fans, it may have been the perfect antidote to allegations of match fixing and not trying, or tanking, in matches that took place on the tour years ago. In the latter instance, Murray’s pal, Novak Djokovic, on Wednesday refuted claims he deliberately lost a match at the Paris Masters in 2007.
It’s an important year for Murray, parenthood no doubt leading the way.
On the court, Murray is seeking a first grand slam title in three years. Despite finishing at No. 2 in 2015 and leading Great Britain to a first Davis Cup title since 1936, one could argue that the second best player in the world last year was Federer. He and Djokovic contested the Wimbledon and U.S Open finals, with Murray’s lone appearance in a grand slam final in 2015 coming in Melbourne.
Having to face Djokovic in another final this would be problematic for Murray since he has lost 10 of their last 11 meetings.
Murray heads into the third round with a very winnable match against Joao Sousa of Portugal. The 26-year old has only been to the third round of a major on two previous occasions, and he lost both times. With Murray starting the tournament in dazzling form, it appears as though it will take more than a fringe player on tour to take the Scot out.
Other results from Thursday in the men’s draw saw Fernando Verdasco fail to follow up his win over Rafael Nadal. Verdasco fell to Dudi Sela in a surprise result that sees the Israeli into the third round at Melbourne for the second straight year and the second time in his lengthy career. Better fortunes fell upon another Spaniard, namely Feliciano Lopez. In a marathon match, Lopez played in four tiebreakers before winning the fifth set 6-4. John Isner also advanced while Gael Monfils, who seems quiet at the Aussie, is also into the third round.
On the other main courts besides Rod Laver Arena, Victoria Azarenka was in action. Azarenka has been hampered by injuries lately, most notably in 2014, but appears to be ready to add to her grand slam collection.
The second favorite to win the 2016 Australian Open faced Danka Kovinic in a match that ended 6-1, 6-2. Through two rounds and four sets of action, Azarenka has still lost just three games. It is hard to picture the two-time champion from Australian losing to Naomi Osaka in the next round, meaning that an Azarenka-versus-Muguruza fourth round match could be looming.
Other players advancing in the women’s side included Varvara Lepchenko, Madison Keys, Denisa Allertova, and Johanna Konta.