Murray's US open on track

ANDY Murray's preparations for the US Open are gathering pace. The 24-year-old Scot, having made a poor start to his American hard-court season by falling at the first hurdle in Montreal last week, is through to the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Masters thanks to a 6-2, 7-5 victory yesterday over Alex Bogomolov Jnr.

With the year’s final Grand Slam event starting in New York on Monday week, Murray is keen to get in as much match practice as possible, particularly having decided to play only two tournaments in the build-up to Flushing Meadows. The world No 4, who today meets the winner of yesterday’s later meeting between David Ferrer and Gilles Simon, usually performs well in Cincinnati, having won the title three years ago and reached the quarter-finals there in five of the last six years.

Beating Bogomolov earned revenge for one of the Scot’s worst defeats this year, Murray having lost in straight sets to the 28-year-old Moscow-born American in Miami in March during his post-Australian Open slump. On that occasion Bogomolov broke Murray’s serve seven times. A repeat performance never looked on the cards this time, though Murray’s 11 aces and six double faults were evidence of a serving display that combined excellence with carelessness. While he was never at his best and did not move around the court with his usual fluency, Murray had too much in his game for an opponent who until this summer was playing most of his tennis on the Challenger circuit.

Bogomolov broke into the world’s top 50 for the first time this week after the best run of his career, including a semi-final appearance in Los Angeles last month. The American earned his place in Cincinnati’s main draw via the qualifying tournament.

Murray got off to a flying start. A double fault handed the Scot a break in the opening game and a series of fine returns saw him break to love in the third. When he then trailed 15-40 on his own serve after two double faults and a careless forehand, Murray immediately dug himself out of trouble with a pair of aces before taking a 4-0 lead. Bogomolov stopped the rot in the following game, but Murray served out for the set.

The second set, however, was much tighter. Bogomolov, striking the ball with more power and chasing every ball, twice came back from a break down, levelling to 1-1 and 4-4. Murray held serve to stay in the set at 4-5 and made the final decisive break in the next game thanks to some well-timed returns. An ace on his first match point gave Murray victory after an hour and 41 minutes.

The Cincinnati tournament is a combined event this year, with men and women playing in the same week. While the world’s top four men were on court yesterday, the women’s field looked decidedly depleted after two of the top three seeds, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka, along with the star attraction, Serena Williams, went out of the tournament on Wednesday.

Wozniacki, watched by her friend the golfer Rory McIlroy, suffered her third successive defeat, losing to the American teenager, Christine McHale. It was her first defeat to an opponent outside the world’s top 75 since 2009. Meanwhile, Azarenka and Williams pulled out with hand and toe injuries respectively. Although their problems are not serious, neither player wanted to take any chances with the US Open less than a fortnight away.

Ana Ivanovic’s moderate season continued when she was beaten 6-3, 7-6 by Russia’s Nadia Petrova. Her fellow Serb, Jelena Jankovic, recovered to beat China’s Zheng Jie 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

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