All of the usual heavyweights on the men’s side of the Australian Open are still alive.
Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have cruised through their early matches and may be on a collision course to a memorable last few rounds. However, don’t overlook the No. 4-seeded Andy Murray when compiling the list of contenders Down Under.
After all, the defending Wimbledon champion is no stranger to the big stage.
Murray has yet to drop a single set through three rounds at the Australian Open. He made quick work of Go Soeda (6-1, 6-1, 6-3), handled Vincent Millot (6-2, 6-2, 7-5) and persevered versus Feliciano Lopez after a first-set tiebreaker (7-6, 6-4, 6-2).
It’s not just that Murray has won, it is that he has looked completely dominant in doing so. In temperatures that have approached dangerous levels at times, Murray is getting off the court quickly with straight-set victories, which could pay off in the later rounds in terms of his energy levels.
Next up is a fourth-round match against the relatively unknown Stephane Robert.
Robert is the lowest-ranked player remaining in the Australian Open field (world No. 119) and only made it into the tournament because Philipp Kohlschreiber pulled out because of an injury. To Robert’s credit, he has only lost a single set through three rounds and has looked as effective as almost anyone in the field.
That being said, he has yet to play someone near Murray’s caliber in his first-ever time advancing past the second round of a Grand Slam.
Murray had something of a back-handed compliment when discussing Robert to Sky Sports:
I know him a little bit from when I was coming through the Futures and Challengers circuits. Obviously that was quite a while ago now. But it's good to see. He's 33 and it could be easy to stop playing if you're not in the top hundred or necessarily making a great living.
But it does show if you stick at it, you're professional, and when your chance comes you take it, you can do great things. Great for him. Good for tennis as well.
It doesn't take much reading between the lines to garner that Murray is confident against Robert. He should be.
Yes, it’s easy to admire Robert’s efforts thus far, but this is a fairly straightforward path to the quarterfinals for Murray.
Presumably, Murray would have to play Federer in the quarterfinals, but don’t be surprised if Jo-Wilfried Tsonga upsets Federer. Tsonga is out for revenge after losing to Federer in a five-set thriller in last year’s Australian Open, and he knocked off the all-time great at the last French Open.
Tsonga has the momentum and desire to reach the quarterfinals, and he may just do so. While he has been playing well of late and would certainly have even more confidence with a win over Federer, Murray is simply the better player.
Murray doesn’t beat himself, is a formidable server and will outlast Tsonga in a quarterfinals matchup.
That would put Murray in the semifinals, where anything can happen.