Shenzhen: There were flashes of the glory days for Britain's former world number one Andy Murray on Thursday as he dumped top seed David Goffin of Belgium out of the ATP Shenzhen Open 6-3, 6-4 in round-of-16 action.
The 31-year-old dug deep when it mattered — like the Murray of old — brushing off 70 percent of break points faced and firing down 15 aces against a player ranked 11th in the world. "I felt like in terms of the way I hit the ball, it was the best I've played, and I think I knew that I was going to have to hit the ball very well if I wanted to win," Murray said afterwards.
Goffin kept the pressure on throughout, breaking Murray twice to claw his way back into a thrilling second set before the British player's trademark determination prevailed. Three times the 27-year-old Goffin threatened to break with the score at 5-4, and three times Murray found a win to fight back before sealing the set, and the match, with an ace.
"I love the conditions that we play in," said Murray, winner of the first Shenzhen Open in 2014.
"Usually it's quite humid, and the courts are a little bit faster than what we usually play on the tour. I feel like I'm able to control the ball very well here," he added.
With the top seed gone, the tournament now opens up enticingly for Murray as Greek second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was also bundled out in the round of 16 by Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). Fellow British player Cameron Norrie also sent Croatian third-seed Borna Coric packing 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) at the same stage.
There were few visible signs of the hip trouble that has plagued Murray since he climbed to the pinnacle of the game at the end of 2016, only to see his career stall — and his ranking plummet to the 311, where it now languishes.
Surgery in April was supposed to arrest the decline but Murray's form has been up and down since. He is ending his season with this tournament in the southern Chinese metropolis, before moving on to the capital Beijing next week. It now looks a wise move indeed.
The last time he met Goffin was back in 2016, when the Brit was storming towards the world's number one ranking and enjoying a season that would end with nine singles titles, including his second Wimbledon crown and his second Olympic gold.
Back then Murray won an untroubled 6-2, 6-2 at the Shanghai Masters, but it has been hard times for the Scotland-born player ever since. Goffin seems to bring out the best in the Brit, however, as Murray moved their head-to-head record to 6-0 in his favour.
Murray had struggled with the steamy conditions at the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Centre in his opening match against Chinese world number 340 Zhang Zhizhen on Tuesday. He dropped a set but then progressed when his opponent retired with a cramp at 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 4-2. A day's rest looked to have done its work and he was all action on Thursday.
Murray returns Friday for a quarter-final against tournament fifth seed, Fernando Verdasco of Spain, the man who knocked him out of the US Open in the second round back in August.
Updated Date: Sep 27, 2018 23:24 PM