No. 2 seed Andy Murray will surely be tested in the later rounds of the 2016 Australian Open. Fortunately for him, he conserved energy for those matches Wednesday with a relatively easy 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sam Groth.
It was the first head-to-head singles match between the two foes in their careers, and Murray had to overcome a Groth's powerful serve and a crowd that was in the Australian native's corner for much of the contest. He did just that with 10 aces, seven break points won and an impressive 28-of-34 clip on first-service points won.
The Australian Open noted it was business as usual for Murray in the opening two rounds of the tournament:
Murray wasted little time establishing himself as the better player Wednesday. He captured 13 of the first 17 points to take a 3-0 lead in the first set and was a perfect five-of-five on first-service points in those initial games.
The 6'4" Groth is best known for his serving, but Murray continued to take advantage of his vulnerable backhand on the way to another break. Tennis journalist Chris Goldsmith pointed out that Murray's initial success was no surprise given Groth's earlier struggles:
Murray 4-0 up on Groth..... If Chung can deal with Groth serve like he did the other day then Andy will have no problem #ausopen— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) January 21, 2016
Murray capped off the dominant first set by winning all six games and impressed Stuart Fraser of the Daily Mail in the process:
Murray takes first set 6-0 in 29 minutes. Ridiculous returning and four lob winners so far. Groth hasn't hit an ace.— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) January 21, 2016
Groth mercifully got on the board four games into the second set when he held serve. However, the second set was already 3-1 in Murray's advantage at that point, and the mismatch was painfully obvious for the Australian fans.
David Law of BBC 5 Live offered some humor to the situation:
Our neighbours on AO Radio as Groth wins a game: 'Right Sam, you've got him right where you want him.' Haha. 0-6, 1-3.— DavidLaw (@DavidLawTennis) January 21, 2016
To his credit, Groth established some momentum after falling behind 4-1 and broke Murray to make it 4-4. However, it was this serve that turned some heads during the second set, per the Australian Open:
Still, the serve let Groth down at the end of the second set, and Murray won the final two games to take a two-set lead.
By the middle of the third set, it was even clearer that Groth did not belong on the same court as Murray Wednesday. The British star steamrolled his way to an early 3-0 lead in that third set before Groth held serve to avoid two bagel sets in the match.
While that may have been a small moral victory, any chance for Groth to come back ended when Murray outlasted him on a long game that went to deuce to take a 5-1 lead in the final set. From there, Murray finished the straight-sets victory, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1.
Next up for Murray is a showdown with the No. 32 seed, Joao Sousa, who handled Santiago Giraldo in four sets in his second round match.
According to SteveGTennis.com, Murray holds an overwhelming 6-0 advantage in head-to-head showdowns with Sousa, and he will look to dictate the tone from the opening set like he did Wednesday against another overmatched opponent.
Murray had the form of a true title contender through two rounds with consecutive straight-set victories (he won in the first round over Alexander Zverev), and he proved he doesn't have to do it with a dominant serve.
Murray extends rallies and takes advantage of key openings throughout matches, and he will attempt to do the same against Sousa as he heads toward a potential championship clash with No. 1 seed, Novak Djokovic.
Murray offered some words in his post-match interview, per the Australian Open, and said, “It’s nice to play different game styles, a lot of the players play quite a similar game nowadays, and Sam’s has always seemed quite different, coming to the net a lot.”
Murray also discussed Groth’s serving, per the Australian Open, “He didn’t start off the match serving so well, which helped me, and then when he picked his serve up in the second set, it became much tougher.”
Facing the net approach and the powerful serves of Groth will likely help Murray as he advances deeper into the tournament and plays a variety of opponents. If he improves on the dominance fans saw Thursday, a championship is well within reach.