Murray Marches Past Cuevas, Into Antwerp QFs
#NextGenATP Frenchman Humbert stuns home favourite Goffin
It hasn’t always been easy for Andy Murray during his comeback from January hip surgery. But the Scot is increasingly finding ways to win.
Murray reached his second ATP Tour quarter-final in three weeks on Thursday, defeating Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 6-3 to make the last eight of the European Open in Antwerp. The former World No. 1 now has a .500 record (7-7) at tour-level for the first time since his singles return in Cincinnati.
The 32-year-old let slip his first seven break point chances of the match, but the Scot kept pushing for a breakthrough. And once he did, he Scot never looked back, triumphing after one hour and 24 minutes.
"I felt a bit better today. I thought I served quite well for most of the match and when I was able to get into the baseline rallies, I felt I was hitting the ball quite clean, which is good," Murray said on court after his win. "He served very well, which made it difficult for me to get the breaks, but I thought for me it was a good match."
With a 5-4 lead in the first set, Murray played aggressive tennis to break through Cuevas’ defences. He attacked the Uruguayan’s backhand, eliciting a slice error into the net to break for the opener.
Cuevas made a big push in the second set, earning the only four break point chances he had in the match in the set’s opening game. But Murray maintained his focus, and he would break for 4-2 when Cuevas pushed an inside-out forehand wide.
Murray leads Cuevas 3-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, never relinquishing more than four games in any of the seven sets they have played. The World No. 243 will next face Romanian Marius Copil, a qualifier who blasted 13 aces past third seed Diego Schwartzman to upset the Argentine 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(7).
"It's getting there. It sometimes takes me a little bit longer to get warmed up in the matches and sort of feel confident with my movement," Murray said of his physical progress. "But today I think from the beginning of the match I started pretty well. It was a good day."
Murray has won both of his previous matches against Copil, including a three-hour, two-minute triumph last year at the Citi Open that ended at 3:02 am. The Romanian made last year’s Basel final.
"I know him a little bit. He's had some good wins this week. He plays well on this surface, so I'll need to be ready for that," Murray said. "He serves extremely well, so I'll need to return well."
Although Murray is taking it one step at a time, he is pursuing his first ATP Tour title since 2017 Dubai. And based on his performance against Cuevas, he doesn't feel as if that is not within reason.
“I think the way that I played today gives me a chance to do that, yeah. I think if I play like the way I did in the first round, then no. But if I play like I did today, then I’d have a chance. But that’s one of the things that’s difficult coming back is I would now need to play four days in a row, which is something i haven’t done yet," said Murray, who admitted consistency in performance will prove key. "Hopefully I can answer some of those questions this week."
"It wasn't easy, because he's a nice player. He was at home," Humbert said. "I [wanted] to keep my focus and I did it, so I'm really happy. It's a nice victory."
Goffin had an opportunity this week to jump into the Top 8 in the ATP Race To London by winning the title. But instead, Humbert bolstered his hopes of booking a spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals after missing out on the 21-and-under season finale by one spot last year. He began the week in eighth place in the ATP Race To Milan.
"I would like to play my game, focus on what I have to do and don't forget that I would like to go to Milan," Humbert said. "I'm going to play my game and we'll see."