Andy Murray banished old memories of a heavy defeat to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez by cruising past the Spaniard 6-2, 6-0 on Wednesday night to reach the quarter-finals in Dubai for a fifth time in his career.
The world No1 needed just 72 minutes to take out Garcia-Lopez and described his form this week as “way better” than the start of the year.
Murray began his 2017 campaign by losing the Doha final to Novak Djokovic – which ended his 28-match winning streak – and then suffered a shock fourth round defeat to Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open.
After a five-week break, Murray returned to action in Dubai and has been convincing in his wins over Malek Jaziri and Garcia-Lopez in his first two rounds.
“It was way better than how I played at the beginning of the year, that’s for sure,” Murray said on Wednesday after his second round win.
“You know, playing aggressive, feeling more solid, you know, when I’m in position to dictate the points, I’m doing it, moving forward.
“I hit my forehand very well last couple of matches. I served better today. It’s been a good start. Obviously matches will get tougher, but I’m much happier with how I’m playing.”
The last time the two had met was in Indian Wells in 2012 when Garcia-Lopez claimed a comfortable win over Murray.
But Wednesday’s Garcia-Lopez was a different type of opponent. Ranked No97 in the world, the Spaniard only just ended an 11-match losing streak last week in Delray Beach and his opening round victory in Dubai over Viktor Troicki was just his second win of the season.
The first four games were a grind and took about half an hour to complete but Murray was in the zone soon after, breaking then consolidating for a 4-1 advantage.
The Brit broke again in game eight to seal the opening set.
Murray got his hands on two break points in his the Spaniard’s first service game of the second and he only needed one chance to inch ahead 2-0 on a long ball from his opponent.
The world No1 was in an untouchable mood and he opened up a 5-0 gap with a sensational volley only he can make look that easy.
The 29-year-old got his first match point on a forehand winner but Garcia-Lopez saved it with an overhead smash.
Murray closed out the contest on his second chance though when Garcia-Lopez sent a backhand into the net.
Murray was asked again about Sharapova & wildcards: Im extremely clear on how I feel about antidoping & yeah I dunno really what else to say— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) March 1, 2017
“Often the start of the match is key, especially the way that that one got going. When I got the early break, pretty much was almost 30 minutes in and we’d only played four games,” said Murray, who next takes on Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
“Mentally, that was important for me, to be up at that stage.
“It could have gone either way, obviously, first few games. But being up at that stage helped, and then I loosened up a bit after that and played really well.”
Murray went to the net 12 times during the match and lost just one of those points up front.
“It’s something I used to do a lot more earlier in my career, and then sometimes you can get away from that,” said Murray.
““It’s obviously sometimes feel like it’s more high-risk going to the net, but if you trust your shot and you’re feeling confident and striking it well, when you’re in the middle of the court, it’s very difficult, especially on a surface like this, to make the passes.
“So, yeah, I think that the surface here allows it. The surface in Australia also allowed it, as well, and I used it to my advantage tonight.”
World No1 Andy Murray and seven-time champion Roger Federer both feature in a glittering evening session at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Scot Murray faces Guillermo García-Lopez in the round of 16 at 7pm while Federer comes up against Russian qualifier Evgeny Donskoy after the completion of that match.
Fourth seed Gael Monfils and Dan Evans will also go head to head earlier in the day on Centre Court.
See the complete schedule below:
Barring an early hiccup, Andy Murray’s first round in Dubai was a fairly smooth success over Tunisian Malek Jaziri, who started well but could not sustain his level and later said he suffered from dizzy spells during the match on Tuesday.
Murray, competing in the Dubai tournament for the first time since 2015, needed just 79 minutes to skip past the 51st-ranked Jaziri 6-4, 6-1 and set up a second round with Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
“The second set was obviously a bit easier. First set, especially the beginning, was tough. You know, first match is never easy, and playing someone who – you know, he goes for it and he takes chances,” said the world No1.
“So a little bit uneasy. I have never hit with him or played against him before. It took a little bit of time to get used to his game. But I played better as the match went on. The only thing I didn’t do well was the first serve. I didn’t hit my first serve that well. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe first match under the lights, haven’t practiced in those conditions since I have been here. The second serve was very good. The rest went well.”
Jaziri had the better start, putting pressure on the Murray serve and breaking first on a lucky net cord for a 2-1 lead.
Murray fired a backhand down-the-line winner to get a break point in the following game and Jaziri’s advantage did not last long as he mis-hit a forehand to let his opponent draw level.
The pair were neck and neck until Murray found an opening in game 10, getting a set point on the Jaziri serve and hitting a forehand down-the-line winner to take a one-set lead.
Down 0-40 on his own serve at 1-2, Jaziri halted play to seek medical assistance then got broken immediately upon resumption of play.
Jaziri’s level dropped significantly and he had to fight off three more break points in game six. It was not enough though and he sent a wild forehand wide to get broken again as Murray opened up a 5-1 gap.
Murray got his first match point with a smooth forehand winner that painted the sideline and he sealed the deal on another error from the Tunisian.
“I’ve had like five nosebleeds since I arrived to Dubai, I don’t know why,” Jaziri, who played in Marseille last week, said after the match.
“I was feeling good on Monday, and I was playing well in the beginning today but then I don’t know what happened at 5-4. I was feeling dizzy. I was going to call the doctor before that game but then I said maybe I’ll keep moving and it will pass. But then I was feeling worse. I was feeling a dizzy and had a headache all the way to the back of my neck. He played a good match, he made me move a lot.”
Murray, 29, said he did not notice anything wrong with Jaziri until he briefly stopped the match.
The Scot said he’s happy with how his own body feels, and that he seems to have fully recovered from a bout of shingles.
Murray is 2-1 head-to-head against his next opponent, Garcia-Lopez, who won their most recent meeting in Indian Wells in 2012.
“I don’t know exactly how many times we have played. I just remember I lost to him once in Indian Wells, you know, when I was feeling great, from what I remember,” recalls Murray.
‘The practice week before I was playing like some of the best tennis I had ever played, and then I went out there in the evening and really, really struggled. He killed me. I think it was like 3 and 2, or I remember it being a pretty easy match for him. I will need to be ready for that one, and I hope I play a good one.”
Fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych was the last to make it through into the second round when his fellow Czech Lukas Rosol retired while down in the second set with a knee injury.