Crunch time for Murray as the Aussie Open heads into the Quarters

With a lack of free-to-air coverage of the Australian Open you’d be forgiven for feeling a little bereft of ‘Murray-Mania’ and perhaps even for being completely unaware that the Scotsman has once again advanced to the final eight of a Grandslam event.

Murray has breezed through the early rounds in Melbourne

Thus far, Murray has come up against the talented US teen Ryan Harris in the opening round, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, the awkward Michael Llodra and the in-form Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan. Each of the four matches have provided their own unique dangers, but Murray has dealt well with all comers to date and has only dropped a single set en-route to the Quarters.

His most recent triumph against Kukushkin had the edge taken off of it by the Kazakh’s injury problems, which were almost certainly down to the tough five-set battles that he had endured in the lead up to his encounter with Murray.

Having defeated strong opponents such Viktor Troicki of Serbia and the mile-a-minute Gael Monfils of France, both of whom were seeded in the top 20 for the first ‘Slam’ of the Year, Kukushkin appeared to be in great shape ahead of facing up to Murray (mental shape that is). Unfortunately though, his endeavours in these impressive scalps left him with little left to offer physically against the fourth seed and Murray eventually ran out a comfortable victor by a scoreline that read 6-1 6-1 1-0 prior to his opponent’s retirement.

Not only was it nice for the Scot to bag another big winning margin, but by virtue of his opponent’s premature departure he only needed to be on court for a measly 49 minutes. This will undoubtedly have been welcomed not only by his body but also his fare Scottish skin which would have been taking a severe pounding in the baking Melbourne sun.

With this win Murray has progressed to the last eight at a ‘Slam’ once again and only Japan’s Kei Nishikori stands between him and a place in what would be his fifth consecutive Grandslam Semi-Final appearance. Though Nishikori has impressed en-route to these latter stages of the tournament, he like Kukushkin has had to grind his way through two five-setters already and Murray will look to make not only his superior game but also his fresher body count when they come head-to-head.

Nishikori earned his showdown with Murray through a brilliant win over Tsonga

Murray’s comfortable navigation through the early rounds in Melbourne has once again stirred up public belief, perhaps even personal belief, that the Aussie Open provides the greatest opportunity for him to break his Grandslam duck.

He has previously made it to each of the last two finals at the tournament and has forever spoken fondly of his time ‘Down-Under’ and his comfort on the harder surfaces of Grandslam tennis. Couple this with the sizeable gap between the US Open and the Australian Open and it becomes clear that this tournament will provide him with a significant opportunity on an annual basis.

This lengthy gap between the current ‘Slam’ and the previous one means that Murray’s major rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are likely to have not had the opportunity to have constructed significant runs of devastating form as they are all capable of in more fixture-heavy periods of the year. Therefore, going in to the start of the new year Murray will know that if he gets himself in perfect physical shape and practices hard that perhaps the gap between him and his arguably more illustrious rivals will be at it’s very slimmest, not that there is a huge gulf as it is.

So then, victory over Nishikori would mean a match up with the world’s most feared player of the moment in the form of Djokovic and then who knows who he would face if he triumphed again. In all likelihood Murray will have to defeat two of the world’s top three players if he is to land his first Grandslam win this week, and although he is painfully aware of the difficulty of this task he will be high on confidence and hopeful as ever. COME ON ANDY!

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Can Murray prove he is worth his mint?

Andy Murray has this week set out on yet another quest to bring the Grand Slam glory days back to British tennis. He today progressed into round three with a more than convincing straight sets victory over an out-of-sorts Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

The next round sees Murray going head to head with Jurgen Melzer, the start of a potentially treacherous route to Australian Open glory for the in-form Scot. Melzer is a tricky draw for Murray who could potentially go on and face number 4 seed Robin Soderling in the quarters, world number 1 Rafael Nadal in the Semis and a re-match with Roger Federer in the final.

Spotlight on Britain's only hope...yet again..

Such a potentially tricky route for Murray is testament to the strength of the men’s game at the moment. The fact that it is necessary to defeat arguably the two greatest players of all time, the fourth seed and the world number 11 in order to win a Grand Slam as a fifth seed is indicative of just how high the level is right now.

Murray, having strolled through his first three matches, will be strong favourite to defeat the dangerous Jurgen Melzer. However, it is vital that Murray doesn’t get too complacent. If he does we could well see a repeat of the embarrassment he suffered at the hands of Stan Wawrinka at last years US Open. Murray went into that game having been untroubled in the earlier rounds, and as soon as things started to go against him he lost his head and started to throw the proverbial ‘toys out of the pram’.

Murray seems to have already developed something of a reputation for not having the will or the means with which to go on and succeed in Grand Slam tennis, I for one believe this to be entirely unjust. Murray has already won several more titles than his predecessor as Britain’s finest , Tim Henman, and he is only 23. He has a fantastic record for one so young, and it is only the mind-blowing achievements of his peers such as Nadal that have highlighted his inability thus far to win a Grand Slam.

Being a British tennis fan has for a long while now required a lot of patience. I believe Murray is indeed demonstrating everything it takes to become a major champion and I hope that this patience won’t have to go on for too much longer. He is an exceptional sporting talent and we as fans of Great British tennis should cherish this, I myself can’t wait for the doubters to be proved wrong.