Fine Swine: Australian Open R4 Preview, Murray vs Tomic

Andy Murray seeks his 4th straight win over Bernard Tomic
Photo: Getty Images/AP

Second seed Andy Murray will look to book a spot in the quarterfinals 7th straight year when he faces 16th seed Bernard Tomic. Tomic has never advanced past the fourth round.

(2) Andy Murray vs (16) Bernard Tomic
Andy Murray’s route to Monday’s fourth round match has been rather simplistic. He bullied past Alexander Zverev and Sam Groth in straight sets in the first and second rounds. Joao Sousa did take a set off the second seed in round three, but the Scot eased through 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Murray has flashed his trademark defense and return this week in breaking his opponents 19 times on 36 break chances. His three opponents have combined for 119 unforced errors, a tribute to Murray’s ability to extend rallies and force his foes to play extra balls. Murray’s serve has held up well this week. The Scot has been able to control points with his first serve, winning around 83 percent of those points. He has been broken just three times.

Tomic has not faced a player inside the Top 50 on his path to the fourth round. As a result, he has dropped just two sets through three rounds. He dropped a first set tiebreak to Denis Istomin in the opening round before rallying to win 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Simone Bolelli took the third set in a match otherwise dominated by the Aussie 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5. His third round clash with fellow Aussie John Millman ended in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Tomic has consistently hit more winners than errors this week with 149 winners and 108 unforced errors. His serve has shown some pop with 60 aces. He has been broken four times and showed improvement each round.

The last time that Murray and Tomic met was during Great Britain’s run to the Davis Cup title in 2015. In the semifinals, Murray bashed Tomic 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 on an indoor hard surface in Glasgow. It was the tie clinching victory for the Brits. It also showcased what many have said about Tomic throughout his young career about not showing up consistently in matches outside of Australia. Their other two meetings came on outdoor hard courts with Murray beating Tomic 6-3, 6-1 at the Masters 1000 event in Miami in 2013. Their very first meeting was in Brisbane back in 2012. The Scot eased to a 6-3, 6-2 win.

Andy Murray entered the tournament in Melbourne with a large distraction. His wife, Kim, is expecting the couple’s first child soon and Murray had talked at-length about leaving Melbourne if she went into early labor. That has not been an issue, but Murray now must refocus after an incident involving his father-in-law, Nigel Sears. Sears coaches Ana Ivanovic and collapsed during her third round match with Madison Keys. Sears was hospitalized and is set to be released according to the latest reports. Still, it is additional stress put on Murray during a stressful week of play.

For Tomic, he’s chosen to get into a war of words with Roger Federer. The Swiss started the exchange early in the season. In talking about Tomic’s early play, Federer said “He’s been good, but then top 10 is another story. The year is not just one month long or one week long. It’s 52 weeks. It’s every day. He’s been struggling to show (it), to be quite honest.”

Tomic took the odd opportunity to fire back several weeks later. After his third round win, Tomic said in his press conference on Federer, “If he believes I’m very far away from the top 10, I also believe my prediction that he’s nowhere near Novak’s tennis right now.”

It is nothing new for Tomic to engage in battles off the court, but seems odd to take the opportunity at this point in the week. It shows a lack of focus and is something the 16th seed should not be concerned with heading into a showdown against Murray.

As evident with the previous results, Bernard Tomic has not been a difficult match-up for Andy Murray so far. Tomic’s variety and varying slices do not seem to trouble the second seed. One of the key ingredients to Murray beating most opponents has been his ability to work into their service games and craft those break chances. The pressure he puts on an opponent’s serve consistently is among the best in the business. While Tomic has shown some improved power and consistency this season with his serve, this will be a big test for the Aussie. He has to go into the match knowing he will face break points. The big question will be if he can save enough of those to stay in sets against Murray. Murray’s own serve is far from unflappable, but if the Scot is getting his first serve in consistently, he comes a much tougher player to beat.

If there is a place where Tomic can level the playing field some with Murray, it’s on home turf in Australia. He will have crowd support and perhaps that can help propel him to the upset. Still, nothing from their past suggests that Tomic has the overall consistency in his game to complete a win in this best of five format. This columnist does think Tomic can challenge the second seed today and force Murray to elevate his level of play. The chances seem more likely that Murray can do that rather than seeing Tomic elevate his enough to take three sets.

Andy Murray wins in four sets.


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