Andy Murray’s fourth round victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the US Open on Monday marked a seminal moment for the Briton, as he stumped up the character to remind the tennis world just how combative he is.
When the eighth seed was tested, he duly delivered, on his way to a 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 victory over the Frenchman, in what could be seen by many as his most competent performance since beating Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final in 2013, who he will also face in his next match.
"It was extremely tough conditions, very humid and windy," Murray said after the match.
"The first two sets were very long, tough sets, mentally quite draining. The third set was tougher, but when I got the hold from 2-0 down the momentum was with me."
Top 10 hoodoo ends
There was no sign of the player that choked to the world number 10 at the Toronto Masters in August, where he squandered a 3-0 lead in the deciding set to lose it 6-4, but he has now finally lost the tag of having not beaten a top 10 player since his triumph at SW19.
If the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd were not given enough excitement by some extravagant passing winners, drop shots and returns, then they can feast upon a repeat of the 2012 final in the next round, as Murray faces the world number one for the first time since that Wimbledon final.
Tsonga possibly gave his 27-year-old opponent all the motivation he needed the day before the match, by stating that players were not as fearful of him as they once were, and that Murray’s best serve was eluding him.
But the two-time Grand Slam winner let his tennis do the talking for him from the start of the match, as he lost just three points on his serve in the opening set, breaking in the 12th game with a volley, ending the set with 100% net point wins.
The second set was a more tricky affair, as Tsonga went up an early break in the third game, before Murray broke back five games later, and once again he raised his game at the necessary moment, as he had also done in tight, four set wins over Robin Hasse and Andrey Kuznetsov earlier in the tournament.
But the 2012 champion at Flushing Meadows let his guard down again at the start of the third set, as his serve was broken for the 13th time in the tournament, but some lazy drop shots and poor serves from Tsonga allowed him back in, and there was an air of inevitability about the match going into the closing stages.
The win was eventually wrapped up in the tenth game of the set, as Murray extended his head-to-head lead over the one-time Australian Open finalist to 10-2 after two hours and 43 minutes on Arthur Ashe.
After winning his first title of the year in Toronto in August, Tsonga may have expected a longer run at the last Grand Slam of the year, but he can take heart from the fact that he has reached the last 16 of all four majors in one year for the first time in his career.
The quarter-final meeting with Djokovic will also be a repeat of the 2012 final at the same tournament in New York, which was won by Murray in five sets in a match that lasted just under five hours, as he continues to aim to reach his first ATP final since winning Wimbledon.
They have met 20 times previously, with Djokovic winning 12 of those matches, and their latest encounter has been set up after the Serbian defeated Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 to reach his 22nd consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final.
There is no doubt that the Dunblane-born player will have to raise his efforts again to stand a chance of beating the world number one, who has been in staggeringly strong form on his way to four straight sets victories at the hard court tournament so far.
Reaching the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam has been commonplace for Murray, with Wednesday’s match against Djokovic being his 20th.
But there is a significance about this particular run, as he has sent a message out to the world that when it comes to competing at the top level, you can not afford to rule him out just yet.
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