By John Stonestreet
LONDON (Reuters) – Andy Murray saw off the mercurial challenge of Australian Nick Kyrgios with little fuss on Monday, before just as smoothly playing down growing expectations that a second Wimbledon title is his for the taking.
The second-seeded Scot’s straight sets win over a dangerous opponent maintained his standing, following the shock third round exit of world number one Novak Djokovic, as the bookies’ odds-on favorite to lift the Challenge Cup again on Sunday.
Murray, who in 2013 beat Djokovic to became the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936, has finished runner-up to the Serbian in both of this year’s grand slams in France and Australia.
On Monday he reached his ninth consecutive Wimbledon quarter-final, hanging on to Kyrgios’s coat-tails for much of a pulsating first set before the Australian lost focus to concede the second and third sets tamely in a 7-5 6-1 6-4 defeat.
Murray has not yet dropped a set — but neither has Roger Federer, who beat the Scot in last year’s semi-final.
The presence of the Swiss seven-times champion looms large on the other side of the draw, which goes a long way toward explaining why the thought of lifting the trophy again has yet to enter Murray’s head.
PASSING THE TEST
Describing Monday’s win as “very good”, the Briton said his only focus was on his next match, a quarter-final against French 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“I know the next one is a very tough match against Tsonga. He’s a really, really good grass court player, very, very dangerous,” Murray told reporters.
“I’m aware I’ll have to be playing at my highest level to win.”
For much of Monday’s first set on a packed Centre Court, Murray played second fiddle to 15th seed Kyrgios, who thudded down serves at close to 140 mph that the world number two struggled to reach let alone control.
Murray’s serve, meanwhile, was misfiring and, under darkening skies and roared on by a partisan crowd, he had to dig deep to stay on terms with the Australian.
The set and the match turned in the 12th game, when a combination of Kyrgios errors and two inspired Murray backhands presented the Scot with three break points. Kyrgios saved the first two with booming serves but Murray converted the third.
Thereafter Kyrgios went walkabout, the Briton breaking him twice in a second set that flew by in 26 minutes. He broke once more in the third, closing out the contest with an ace on his third match point.
The Australian, who described his performance after the first set as “pretty pathetic”, has now — in common with a multitude of Britons — hitched his wagon to the Murray camp.
“I hope (Murray wins)… I hope so, definitely. I think he’s definitely got a great chance,” Kyrgios told reporters.
(Reporting by John Stonestreet; editing by Ken Ferris)