Andy Murray expressed that strong serving was the key to a nail-biting win over home favourite John Isner at the Cincinnati Masters on Thursday.
The world number nine upset the American crowd to knock out their number one player in their third round match, though he was forced to show a high amount of resilience in doing so, as he faced two match points in the final set before winning 6-7, 6-4, 7-6.
The two-time Grand Slam winner held serve throughout the entire match, despite losing the opening set, and Isner was unable to convert any of the three break points he forced in the match, most notably in the 12th game of the third set, where two double faults from Murray gave him match point.
But a missed forehand at the net let the 27-year-old off the hook, and after saving another match point, things became more comfortable for Murray, as he won the deciding tie-break 7-2 to advance to the quarter-finals.
Despite his loss of concentration at 5-6 down in the decider, as well as losing the first-set tie break 7-3 from a 3-1 lead, the Dunblane-born player was impressed with the lack of opportunities given to the world number 14 for the majority of the match.
The former world number two said after the match: “He goes through patches where he’s hitting 120mph second serves, and you’re facing a huge amount of pressure on your own service games, just trying to hang on and chase everything down.
“But I did a good job of that. I didn’t give him too many opportunities to break me which was key.”
The competitive spirit shown by Murray will be a welcome sight to his supporters, as it contrasted with his collapse against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals at the Toronto Masters last week, where he squandered a 3-0 lead in the final set to lose it 6-4.
That was another low point in what has been a difficult season for Murray, as he has failed to reach the final of a tournament and his world ranking his fallen by five positions from fourth since the start of the year.
But Murray feels that working on physical fitness has been one of his main priorities, as he is still continuing to recover from back surgery which forced him to miss the end of the 2013 season.
“It’s been a tough year. Coming back from surgery is hard.
“So in my training block I didn’t actually play loads of tennis, but the priority was to get physically strong and Amelie (Mauresmo, his coach) bought into that which helped while some coaches may have pushed you to spend more time on court.”
Murray is yet to beat a player ranked inside the top 10 this year, but he will have the chance to change that when he takes on world number three Roger Federer in the last eight on Friday, as the Swiss also came back from a set down to beat Gael Monfils of France 4-6, 604, 603 to set up the fixture
It will be the first time they have met since playing at the same stage of the Australian Open in January, which Federer won in four sets, though Murray leads their overall head-to-head record 11-10.