Andy Murray wary as he prepares to face Verdasco’s conqueror

Andy Murray has been studying the game of today's opponent Andrey Kuznetsov, inset, on film
Andy Murray has been studying the game of today's opponent Andrey Kuznetsov, inset, on film
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Andy Murray is back on track at the US Open and finds his nightmare draw opening up.

After the cramp-induced drama of his first-round win over Robin Haase, Murray enjoyed a smooth passage through to round three against German qualifier Matthias Bachinger on Thursday night.

Instead of heat and humidity, a strong wind provided the meteorological obstacle for the pair but Murray, who grew up playing in windy conditions in Scotland, was in his element. All facets of the eighth seed’s game were working nicely and he needed only an hour and 46 minutes to wrap up a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory. The next test today for Murray comes in the shape of Russian former Wimbledon junior champion Andrey Kuznetsov, world ranked 96th, who upset Fernando Verdasco in five sets on Thursday.

Much was made of Murray’s treacherous path when the draw was made last Thursday but the first two likely dangermen, Radek Stepanek and Verdasco, were both accounted for by other players.Murray has been here before. At Wimbledon last year, the Scot’s draw appeared to be formidable but he did not end up facing a top-ten player until the final. Not that Murray will be underestimating 23-year-old Kuznetsov, who he has never faced before in a match or in practice.

“He’s had a couple of big wins in the slams this year,” said Murray, whose knowledge of other players is unfailingly excellent. “He beat (David) Ferrer at Wimbledon and obviously here against Verdasco. I’ve never played him before. I don’t know his game that well, but I’ve seen him play a little bit. He hits the ball pretty flat, likes to go for his shots a lot. This court’s fairly quick, so that will probably help him as well. But I’ll watch a little bit of video, try to understand his game a bit better.”

Should he get past Kuznetsov, the main dangers in his section still lurk in the form of potential fourth-round opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who he is seeded to meet in the quarter-finals. Having played in the cool of the night session, Murray is likely to be back in the heat of the day against Kuznetsov.

He still does not know why cramp struck against Haase but will not worry unduly about the possibility of a repeat episode.

“You just take each day as it comes,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen from day to day. Monday was very, very hot, humid conditions. (Against Bachinger) it was pretty cool at the end, extremely windy, a different court. Each day in tennis things change. So you’ve just got to move on, trust the work that you’ve done and get ready for the next match.”

Kuznetsov was in relaxed mood. “There is no pressure and I will try to do my best,” he said. “I’ll try to play aggressively. That’s the way I try to play every game. I will try to show my best tennis, my aggressive tennis, and I hope it will help me to get chances and to use them.”

Meanwhile, fourth seed Ferrer was handed a walkover into the third round when opponent Bernard Tomic pulled out with hip problems. The Australian had surgery on both hips after the Australian Open and did not want to take a risk when he felt pain in the left one following his first-round win over Dustin Brown.

Tomic, who has also been struggling with flu, said: “I don’t want to muck around with that area. For sure something is there. I’ve got to get it checked. It’s not good right now. It’s painful. I can’t afford to get on court and play against David and cause much more pain to myself because I’m going to have to stay with him the whole match. I can potentially make it ten times worse. For me it’s the best thing not to go on court today. It’s a very difficult decision for me, but I have to do this.”

It has been a season of wild extremes for Tomic, who played the quickest recorded match in ATP Tour history on his comeback from surgery when he lost to Jarkko Nieminen in 28 minutes in Miami. He subsequently dropped out of the top 100 after a torrid run only to win the second title of his career in Bogota in July.

Seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov had not won a match at Flushing Meadows before this year but he is through to the third round without dropping a set after a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Dudi Sela. Marin Cilic has also been impressive so far, and the 14th seed’s 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ilya Marchenko set up a third-round clash with 18th seed Kevin Anderson, who came from a set down to beat Jerzy Janowicz. Gael Monfils avoided his customary drama in a 7-5, 6-3 ,6-2 win over Alejandro Gonzalez while 19th seed Feliciano Lopez won in four sets against Tatsuma Ito.