In the third round of the US Open, No. 2 seed Andy Murray faces resurgent 28-year-old American Taylor Dent on Sunday. Murray is considered by many to have the best chance of stopping world No. 1 Roger Federer’s march to a sixth-straight US Open title, but Dent presents an unusual test for the young Scot.
To read about Murray's chances, read Rohini Iyer's take.
If there were a television special about Taylor Dent, it would probably be called When Americans Attack!
One of the very few players on the ATP Tour who still serves and volleys, it’s very clear what Dent’s course of action will be on Sunday. It’s the same tactic that propelled him past Feliciano Lopez in round one, and then through his five-set epic with Ivan Navarro in the next round: He has to get to net.
Murray’s returns and passing shots are about as good as you’ll see on tour right now, so Dent has a tough task ahead. He’s already overcome worse trials, though, as two fractured vertebrae and a serious of back surgeries often made it appear he’d never play again.
He’s already doing better than expected, though, and should play with no fear on Sunday.
Will Win If
Dent has neither the groundstrokes nor the lateral movement to beat the world No. 2. The upside of this is that his course is clear, in that he must brave Murray’s passes and move forward. This will require a lot of hard serving, placed with accuracy and variety, coupled with quick closes to the net.
Dent can’t be afraid to double fault, nor can he hesitate to attack Murray’s second serves (the most vulnerable shot the Scot is likely to hit all day). Whenever possible, he must rip or chip approach shots down the line and close it.
Will Lose If
Dent can do everything right and lose this match. Unfortunately for him, Murray has more options, being no slouch at net, having a pretty big first serve of his own, and being a league or two beyond Dent from the baseline.
If Murray pins Dent at the back for much of the match, the American has no chance. If Dent fails to execute his game plan, he will lose quickly.
Shots to Look For
Dent’s slice backhand is his preferred tool for net rushing, so look for him to go down the line with it. Murray’s forehand is no weakness, but his backhand may be the most effective two-hander in the business right now, so look for more of Dent’s approaches to against that wing.
The most discouraging prospect for Dent is that he trails in the head to head meetings with Murray 0-2. Even worse, the two matches Murray won were in his rookie year of 2005, when Dent was at his athletic peak. Murray is now far tougher both mentally and physically, meaning Dent faces long odds.
There is one department in which Dent’s situation has changed for the better, however, in 2005 he, along with Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Robby Ginepri were all members of the next generation of stateside tennis players who could not meet the expectations of American public.
Now, Dent is happy to just be playing again. Murray is the one with the pressure, while the American can know that a loss here will disappoint no one.
Furthermore, the New York crowd has almost certainly embraced Dent following his fifth-set tiebreak win over Navarro.
The odds point to a likely Murray victory, but Dent has what it takes to push him for four sets. Murray will still win, if he can handle the pressure of the occasion.