Andy Murray made short work of big-hitting Frenchman Jeremy Chardy today as he cruised into his fourth successive Australian Open semi-final.
Chardy’s high-risk game only sparkled sporadically and Murray was largely untroubled as he won 6-4 6-1 6-2 to move into a last-four clash with the winner of tonight’s meeting between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Murray has yet to drop a set in Melbourne and never looked like doing so against the world number 36, whose main weapons – his serve and booming forehand - were never factors in the match.
“Today was the best I have played (in the tournament),” the Scot said.
“I struggled in the last few rounds a little bit and my last opponent (Gilles Simon) was struggling physically so it wasn’t much of a match.
“Jeremy has beaten some great players so I had to come out sharp.”
As for tonight’s remaining semi-final, Murray revealed he would only give it brief consideration.
“I’ll watch a little bit but not the whole match,” he said. “I will get an early night and hope that Roger and Jo play for four or five hours!”
Chardy struggled throughout with a ball toss which prevented his serve from causing significant damage while Murray’s ability to persistently probe his opponent’s backhand never allowed him to find a regular groove on his groundstrokes.
All in all it was a much improved display from the US Open champion, who is seeking to become the first man in the Open era to follow up his maiden grand slam triumph by also winning the next major.
The first two sets followed a similar pattern as Murray got up a double break early on before having to withstand some Chardy pressure.
The Scot was gifted the early initiative as a nervous-looking Chardy, making his first appearance in a grand slam quarter-final, opened with two double faults and a netted high backhand volley.
Murray was content to engage in cross-court backhand rallies, not allowing the Frenchman to unleash any confidence-boosting forehands.
And as he struggled to find his game, Murray struck again to go 3-0 up as a chipped approach behind Chardy resulted in a feeble attempt at a pass which was cut off with ease at the net.
A booming ace finally got Chardy on the board before he got one of the breaks back as Murray netted a routine sliced backhand of his own.
Chardy was finally starting to warm to his task but, despite getting to deuce with Murray serving for the set, he could not find a way through as the Olympic champion edged in front.
Chardy won their most recent meeting at the Cincinnati Masters last year but he found himself in deeper trouble at the start of the second set as Murray capitalised on some wild shots to establish a 3-1 lead.
And with Chardy struggling to get his ball toss far enough in front of him to really attack the serve, it was no surprise when Murray broke for a fourth time in the match to move further ahead.
But as he did in the first set, he took his foot off the pedal.
This time, however, he was able to dig himself out of the hole thanks to some wonderful defence.
Serving at 4-1, Murray slipped 15-40 down but saved the first break point with a crisp passing forehand having been moved round the court and the second after some wonderful baseline scrambling prompted Chardy to dump a routine volley into the net.
He held for 5-1 and then broke again with Chardy beginning to look disheartened.
Murray had not lost from two sets up since going down to David Nalbandian at Wimbledon in 2005.
And a comeback never looked likely here with Chardy’s game starting to disintegrate.
He was broken once more after putting a weak forehand in the net to hand Murray a 2-0 lead.
The third seed saw another break point chance come and go for 4-0 before Chardy held, but it mattered little as a beautifully constructed point saw Murray surge 5-1 ahead.
There was a minor blip when he failed to serve it out at the first attempt as his concentration wavered, but he promptly won the next game to go through in one hour and 51 minutes.