- Wimbledon, Day Five
Impressive Murray breezes into the second week
Andy Murray eased into the fourth round of Wimbledon - and, in the process, sent a real message to those remaining players in the draw who harbour hopes of beating him - with a sublime display of tennis on Centre Court on Friday evening.
Opponent Tommy Robredo did not play poorly during their third round encounter - practically the last of the day's entertainment on a rain-affected afternoon at the All England Club - but nevertheless had no answer for Murray's flowing array of groundstrokes, as the US Open champion breezed to a 6-2 6-4 7-5 victory.
"I played my best match of the tournament so far today," Murray said.
Andy Murray is being quizzed by journalists in the interview room and the Scot admits each set became tougher. "I think he started to feel more comfortable. I served well the first couple of matches but maybe did not hit the ball quite as well as I would have liked. Playing under the roof, it's easier to time the ball. I would rather there was good weather and we'd play outdoors without the roof."
After this exhibition on Centre Court, any of the Scot's forthcoming opponents will be desperately hoping they at least avoid playing him under the roof. In the climate-controlled environment Murray soon found his rhythm and seemed to have even more confidence to go for the corners, unleashing forehands - timed at four miles-per-hour faster than here 12 months ago - that Robredo simply could not do anything with.
The Spaniard started well, winning the first two points with unreturnable serves, but it was downhill from there, despite winning that game. Murray's serve was singing from his very first delivery and, by the third game, his return was well-conditioned too, as he roared back from a 0-40 deficit to break after some pinpoint passing shots.
Those experiences seemed to get into Robredo's head, as he declined to come into the net for fear of being picked off with regular ease. That change in tact saw Robredo break Murray's serve - but only after falling into a 4-1 hole, with Murray shrugging off that blip to break right back and breezily serve out the set.
The second stanza started in similar fashion, Murray breaking Robredo to kick things off and then holding to love to prevent the clay court specialist getting any ideas above his station. Robredo was finding his second serve punished with impunity and began to grow frustrated, although that only seemed to stir up his defences in other areas.
Murray continued to press Robredo but was unable to give himself a cushion with a second break, while Robredo suddenly posed a few questions of his as the set drew towards a conclusion. Serving at 5-4 Murray gave up a break point, but a couple of determined forehands again bailed him out - as a reaching Robredo forehand that landed marginally long ultimately handed Murray a two-set lead.
Such deficits hold little fear for Robredo - he overcame three of them on his recent marathon run at the French Open. And in London too he raised his level, with Murray perhaps a little less authoritative with some of his shot-making as the duo remained locked on serve all the way to 5-5.
The great players step up at the right times, however, and Murray duly did the same - taking advantage of two unforced errors from Robredo to bury a volley deep to set up a suddenly rare break point, one he would take when Robredo failed to get a deep backhand back across to him.
All that was left was for Murray to serve out for the match - something he duly did to complete his third successive straight sets victory.
The second week awaits - with Mikhail Youzhny or Viktor Troicki next up.
Playing before Murray on Centre, Jerzy Janowicz indicated he may be a possible threat to the Scot in the semi-finals, after an impressive deconstruction of high seed Nicolas Almagro.
The lofty Janowicz exhibited a threatening serve and some booming groundstrokes in a three-set victory over the clay court specialist, signalling his intent with a 7-6(6) 6-3 6-4 triumph.
"Right now I'm playing really good tennis and I'm really confident," Janowicz said.
Out on Court One, David Ferrer remains the third highest seed left in proceedings after he beat Roberto Batista Agut in four sets.
The fourth seed appeared to be in some trouble after he coughed up the second set, but his usual relentless drive carried him through a third set tiebreak and eventually to a 6-3 3-6 7-6(4) 7-5 win.
Sergiy Stakhovsky may have done Murray a real favour in knocking Roger Federer out of the competition but the Ukrainian will not be around to reap further benefits of that shock, after he was run out of town by Jurgen Melzer - who will face Janowicz next.
Stakhovsky showed flashes of that Federer-beating form in the second set but could not sustain it, eventually falling to a 6-2 2-6 7-5 6-3 defeat against the Austrian.
Elsewhere, 29th seed Grigor Dimitrov was knocked out of the competition by Grega Zemlja, falling after a mammoth 96-minute fifth set.
The two players, having completed four sets on Thursday, returned with Dimitrov serving to stay in the match at 8-9. The Bulgarian fell 30-40 down - literally, a slip after serving handing Zemlja the point - and then refused to carry on, forcing another brief delay while the court dried out.
When they returned Dimitrov proceeded to save five match points but Zemlja would not be denied - passing his onrushing opponent and finding the line to finally clinch the win.
There were also wins for Tommy Haas, Alexander Dolgopolov and Adrian Mannarino - who ended Dustin Brown's adventure.
Despite further rain delays at the start and towards the end of the day's play, the remaining second round matches from Thursday were all completed during the day - rendering it highly unlikely organisers will play on middle Sunday in a bid to catch up with the scheduling.