Like the great white sharks that prowl the Great Barrier Reef, Andy Murray has his prey in sight: his first Australian Open Championship.
While serious opponents stand in the way of his pursuit of a second straight Grand Slam title—most notably, Roger Federer and top seed Novak Djokovic—Murray has looked sharp and focused Down Under as he enters the quarterfinal round.
Murray cruised through the first week of the tournament without dropping a set. In his last match against Gilles Simon of France, Murray looked dominant, hitting 12 aces without double-faulting and even winning 52 percent of receiving points, according to Australian Open statistics.
Murray dispatched the Frenchman in just one hour and 32 minutes and he enters the second week of the tournament “as fresh as he could possibly hope for,” per BBC Sport’s Piers Newbery.
Simply put, Murray has the easiest road to the finals, where fresh legs become more and more crucial in the longer matches and tough Australian heat.
Additionally, he faces the easiest quarterfinal opponent in unranked Jeremy Chardy of France.
Meanwhile, Federer must get through seventh-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, while Djokovic has to square off against fifth-ranked Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. If he wins that match, he gets the winner of the David Ferrer-Nicolas Almagro quarterfinal match.
Additionally, Murray is on a roll and performs at his best in high-pressure situations. He topped Federer in the gold medal final at the London Olympics last summer with the weight of the host nation on his shoulders and beat Djokovic to win the 2012 U.S. Open, becoming the first British man to win a Grand Slam title since 1936.
It doesn’t hurt that, at 25 years of age, Murray is in the prime of his career.
Though Djokovic is also 25, Federer is 31. Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Sports notes that while Federer remains a master at playing to opponent’s weaknesses, his Grand Slam title hopes are “slowly fading” with the rise of new titans like Murray and Djokovic.
Yes, Federer is an all-time great and Djokovic has won the last two Australian Opens. Additionally, a dark horse could emerge from the other remaining quarterfinalists. But Murray is rested and on a roll, and until someone figures out how to stop him, expect him to cruise to his first Australian Open title.