MADRID, May 15 – Friday is Andy Murray's 22nd birthday, but on recent evidence the celebrations may be subdued. On this day two years ago, the Scot retired hurt against Filippo Volandri after damaging tendons in his wrist and missed the next three months, including the French Open and Wimbledon.Twelve months later he was roundly beaten by Rafael Nadal, winning only five games. In the evening, the Murray clan, including his grandmother, went to a sushi restaurant.
"She couldn’t eat anything," Murray recalled yesterday. "She’s pretty much against eating anything that’s not cooked by herself."
The Murrays will gather here again today to watch the world No 3 play Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals of the Madrid Masters. The Argentine world No 5 grew up playing on clay, but on Murray’s current form, even on his least-favoured courts, he should fear nobody.
Murray’s latest victim was Spain’s Tommy Robredo, who was named after The Who’s rock opera but is more of a clay-court wizard than a pinball wizard, having won more matches (21) on the surface this year than any other player. Murray, claiming his fifth victory from seven matches on clay in 2009, won 7-5, 6-1.
The contest could have been over even more quickly. When Murray broke serve for the first time in the 11th game, he did so on his eighth break point. If there was a criticism it was that Murray fell again into the trap of playing too passively. While the tactic brought a regular dividend, with Robredo making many mistakes on his more potent forehand, there were times when Murray might have benefited from being more aggressive.
Nevertheless, the Scot held firm on the one occasion when his serve came under threat, Robredo forcing his only break points when Murray served for the first set. The world No 17 held serve in the opening game of the second before losing six games in succession.
"I’m very happy with the result," Murray said afterwards. "He’s one of the top clay-court players. He’s made the second week of the French Open quite a few times. He’s obviously not at the same level as Nadal, but not many are. He gives a lot of guys tough matches."
If Murray beats Del Potro, who has lost all three of their previous meetings, his next opponent will be Roger Federer, the world No 2, or Andy Roddick (No 6).
It could be quite a semi-final line-up, with Nadal (No 1) and Novak Djokovic (No 4) heading for a showdown in the other half of the draw.