In the very last journey of a season filled with heartening, significant progress and understandable frustration alike, Andy Murray rose to produce perhaps his best result of the year, defeating Jannik Sinner, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in the second round of the Stockholm Open to reach his second quarter-final of the season.
Murray’s victory over Sinner, the top seed and world No 10, is his second top 10 win of the season. Sinner, one of the best young players on the tour, has won two indoor titles in recent weeks.
“I’m convinced I can play … well, I can. I’m playing at the top level and I’m winning matches against the best players in the world,” said Murray when discussing the doubts he had about his tennis earlier in the year. “The ones that I’m losing, I’m pushing the best players in the world. That argument is finished. I can compete at the top level.”
The rise of Sinner has been defined by his clean, destructive shotmaking but Murray matched his intensity and frustrated the Italian with his fast-improving movement. While Murray did initially struggle with his return, in the tie-break he finally imposed himself on Sinner’s serve and he thrived on the big points. At 4-4 he slipped in a second serve ace, to which Sinner responded with a double fault. Murray soon took the set.
The most notable aspect of Murray’s performance was how he maintained a consistent level and intensity throughout, controlling the match with an array of drop shots, low slices and smart angles while patiently waiting for the right moments to attack his forehand. Sinner’s level, by contrast, dipped at the beginning of the second set and Murray refused to allow him back into the match as he secured an excellent win.
Afterwards, Murray said that he felt he had strayed from his normal patient, varied game style earlier in the year amid the many comments from pundits and former pros suggesting that he needed to play more attacking tennis and take more risks in order to be successful again. Now he is playing with far more clarity and his confidence is clear. “I said in the last few weeks, it’s coming,” he said. “It’s coming. I don’t know if it will be this week or the beginning of next year, but I’m going to be pushing and getting deep in tournaments again.”
Murray will now seek to reach his first tour semi-final in two years when he faces Tommy Paul, a talented 52nd-ranked American, in the quarter-final. Dan Evans, the fourth seed in Stockholm, beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (5), 6-2 and he will face Frances Tiafoe next.
Source: The Guardian