Tennis: Andy Murray fightback beats Denis Istomin

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Defending champion Andy Murray ground his way past Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin with a 6-7 (7/5), 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory this morning to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open, where he will face Switzerland star Stanislas Wawrinka.

Murray’s consistency in the top tournaments is such that he has now reached the quarter-finals in each of his last ten grand slam tournaments.

Istomin, ranked 65th in the world, pushed Murray hard though, and the Wimbledon champion was glad to have made it through without a major scare. “I was just very happy to get it done because he had chances at the end of the third set to get ahead,” Murray said.

“But I’m in the quarter-finals of a slam. That is not an easy thing to do and the matches are going to get tougher. I’ll have to up my game.”

The Scot struggled to get out of the blocks in the first set and trailed 5-3 after two forehand errors handed Istomin the break in cool and slightly gusty conditions. Although Murray immediately broke back, he lost out in the tiebreak, with a double fault and a slice into the net allowing Istomin to serve out the set.

Istomin, decked out in luminous orange with similarly garish yellow-rimmed glasses, proved a determined opponent.

After levelling the match, Murray displayed some clear signs of frustration in the third set but finally took control by breaking Istomin in a marathon seventh game after the enterprising Uzbek had saved three break points.

There was never any doubt about who would win from then and the Scot wrapped up the match in a little over three hours. Murray said the weather and wind in Arthur Ashe Stadium had been a factor in his slow start to the night match particularly in the decisive set when, with the scores at 4-4, Murray mis-hit a shot which ballooned high into the night sky and apparently out of bounds, only for the wind to blow it back into play and for the Scot to win a vital break on the Istomin serve.

“It was extremely cold on the court, very windy. Often when you sort of heat up and then in between sets or if you have quite a long break, you cool down pretty quickly,” he said.

“It was very, very different conditions to the last few days where it’s been very humid and you have been sweating a lot.”

Istomin’s decision to play the ball between his legs on three occasions, once when he had a perfectly playable shot, may have pleased the crowd but raised some eyebrows and surprised his opponent. “I think it was 5-4 in the first set when he had a pretty easy shot. I personally wouldn’t try something like that at that stage, but he did, and yeah, it was a bit surprising,” he said.

Wawrinka, who beat Tomas Berdych yesterday, is up next for Murray and he knows he is in for a test. “He has improved quite a lot this year, he has less weaknesses and is more experienced,” said Murray. “He has a very good backhand, serves well, he’s solid at the net and makes a lot of returns. He makes it tricky for you. He is a top player and it will be a very tough match for me.”

The ninth seed beat Berdych 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8/6), 6-2 in two hours and 47 minutes at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Wawrinka, who has had to live in the shadow of compatriot Roger Federer back home, was blown off the court by Berdych in the first set, but in a match featuring superb ball striking and a combined 68 winners, Wawrinka’s consistency proved the difference against the fifth-seeded Czech. He closed out the match by breaking Berdych’s serve for the sixth time to move into the quarter-final. “It’s always tough to play against Tomas,” Wawrinka said. “He always puts you under pressure. I’m just really, really happy. Tonight is a night I will never forget.”

Earlier in the day, top seed Novak Djokovic hammered Spain’s Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-0, 6-0, while 21st seed Mikhail Youzhny prevailed in an epic clash with former Flushing Meadows champion Lleyton Hewitt, edging through to the last-eight 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (7/3), 6-4, 7-5.

Richard Gasquet and David Ferrer meet in the first quarter-final this evening, while Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo play in the night session.