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Murray cruises to win over Nishikori

ESPN staff
January 25, 2012 « Sharapova sets up Kvitova clash | Chartbeat test »
Andy Murray could afford the luxury of a botched hot dog as he crushed Kei Nishikori © Getty Images
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Andy Murray roared into the semi-finals of the Australian Open, with the British No. 1 trouncing Kei Nishikori in straight sets.

Nishikori came into the game on the back of a gruelling five-set win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while Murray spent just 49 minutes on court in his previous game. And those exertions appeared to take a heavy toll on the Japanese as he battled hard but was laboured on court.

Murray seems to have found a steely resolve in the short time he has been working with Ivan Lendl and he gave Nishikori little chance as he claimed a 6-3 6-3 6-1 win.

Murray made a strong start, toying with Nishikori by bringing him in and then sending up a lob - all too aware of the massive effort his opponent had made to get to the quarter finals.

Nishikori looked extremely nervous and errors on both wings handed Murray a chance to break in the opening game. A monster point saw Murray drag Nishikori from side to side and the stamina-sapping nature of the rally saw the Japanese throw in the towel and fail to chase down a ball he could have reached.

Murray handed Nishikori three break points with some sloppy play, but the No. 4 seed quickly refocused to hold against a player who gave the impression of someone with nothing in the tank.

Nishikori stopped the rot when getting on the board in the fourth game, exhibiting a high-risk strategy by advancing to the net in a bid to shorten the points.

The Japanese gave the crowd something to cheer when producing a brilliant Hot Dog lob in the fifth game and it briefly filled him with energy, but Murray continued to move his opponent around the court and despite making a mess of a Hot Dog attempt of his own the Scot claimed the opening set in 55 minutes.

Murray broke at the start of the second set to suggest the dam was about to fall, but some poor serving and a slice of luck courtesy of a net cord enabled Nishikori to break back. Murray's response was impressive in its clinical nature, as he broke straight back thanks to a precision forehand that landed flush on the sideline and was too hot to handle for a player struggling to find any speed of movement.

The serve was a worry for Murray, with his first serve percentage down at 44% in the second set, but he dismissed those concerns by breaking for a third time to claim a two-set cushion.

With Nishikori having spent over four hours longer on court than Murray in getting to the quarter finals, the prospect of a fightback was slim.

Murray moved to snuff out any chance of Nishikori rallying from two sets down for a third time in the tournament by finding rhythm on his serve and he upped the ante on his opponent's serve with a crushing forehand winner. That set up a break point and he claimed it by slamming a backhand down the line that Nishikori could not make a play on.

But the serving travails returned for Murray in the following game, as two break points allowed Nishikori to get the third set back on level terms.

For all the negatives of his serving display, they were offset by a dominant display when returning. Having surrendered his serve so meekly, Murray showed great mental strength to attack on the return of serve and break back.

There was no repeat of the slovenly serving and Murray closed out victory in a little over two hours. Bigger tests will lie ahead, with Novak Djokovic or David Ferrer up next, and he will have to serve better but he will be a fresh player for what is his fifth consecutive grand slam semi-final.

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