Cramps held Andy Murray back in the opening round of the 2014 U.S. Open, but the tournament's champion of two years ago dispelled any concerns about his form in Thursday's win over Matthias Bachinger.
Murray's characteristic prowess as a returner combated Bachinger's strong serve, and the No. 8 seed's own service game was exceptional in a straight-sets, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
Despite entering as a massive underdog, Bachinger had reason to be confident after a blistering serve sparked him to an upset over Radek Stepanek. To give an idea of the magnitude of that achievement, Stepanek beat Murray at the Aegon Championships before Wimbledon.
With how hard Murray had to fight just to get past Robin Haase in the first round, there was reason to doubt him in this one.
BBC Sport's Piers Newbery documented what Murray had to say after beating Haase, where he expressed gratitude for still being in the U.S. Open: "I didn't feel unbelievably nervous before my first match. I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself either—no-one really has any expectations of me here anyway. I don't feel any different, but I'm happy I'm still in the tournament. I could easily be on my way home."
The Washington Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan reported after Thursday's match how Murray felt better about the climate at Flushing Meadows:
Andy Murray is on to the third round. Said the conditions at the night match were preferable to when he cramped during a day match.— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) August 29, 2014
Kheredine Idessane of BBC Scotland noted that it wasn't necessarily easy for Murray, though, and that his quality of tennis was on point:
great job tonight by @andy_murray straight sets 3/3/4 against Bachinger in 1h46, full repertoire of shots in v windy conditions. good stuff— BBCKheredine (@BBCKheredine) August 29, 2014
Indeed, the two-time Grand Slam winner was undaunted by his prior travails, refusing to dwell on his previous condition in a brilliant all-around performance.
Murray won 83 percent of points when his first serve was in play, but the telling deviation came on the second serve, where Murray won 17 of 25 points to Bachinger's 15 out of 32. Bachinger had 24 winners and unforced errors, while Murray mashed 36 winners to 17 errors and never lost his serve, per USOpen.org.
With the way Murray took care of business, Sports Illustrated's Courtney Nguyen observed the shift in TV coverage:
Yes, CiCi Bellis has bumped Andy Murray off ESPN. #MERICA— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) August 29, 2014
Even when adversity was imminent in the third set, Murray fought back from love-40 down to hold at 3-2 and then went on to break Bachinger back to take the final 6-4 advantage. That officially put to rest any hope Bachinger had of a comeback for the ages.
Stuart Fraser of the Daily Mail felt Murray was in far better shape than he was after the maiden match:
After dodgy opener, much better from Andy Murray who eases through to last 32 in straight sets. Next up on Sat: world No 96 Andrey Kuznetsov— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) August 29, 2014
ESPN Tennis alluded to Murray's overall steadiness at this particular major tournament:
Murray hasn't quite been himself in 2014, failing to win a singles title all year. He may be playing some of his best tennis at the best possible time, though. A Grand Slam triumph would redeem any shortcomings he's suffered this season.
The third round will pit Murray against Andrey Kuznetsov, a tough, 23-year-old foe who defeated Fernando Verdasco, a two-time U.S. Open quarterfinal participant, in the second round. The good news is that Murray dodged another potential pitfall, at least on paper, in that his prospective opponent is an unlikely upset candidate for the second straight time.
If Murray plays as he did Thursday, Kuznetsov and the other strong players standing in his way will have a difficult time eliminating him as the tournament progresses.