MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan 20 – Andy Murray on Friday downplayed Novak Djokovic’s shock exit from the Australian Open and said it was “unreasonable” to expect to the Serb to maintain his dominance long-term.
The top seed was as surprised as anyone by Djokovic’s defeat to 117th-ranked Denis Istomin in the second round, but he dismissed suggestions his rival was “struggling”.
“I mean, struggling by the highest standards,” Murray said, after he beat Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the fourth round.
“But compared with most players, it’s not been that bad really… He has played some really good stuff over the last six or seven months, too. It’s just not been as consistent as what it was the three years before.
“But how anyone is expected to keep up that level for their whole career, it’s just unreasonable to expect that of anyone.”
Boris Becker, Djokovic’s former coach, and Australian great Pat Cash both said the Serb’s era on top of tennis seemed to be at an end after his latest poor defeat on Thursday.
Murray, seeking his first Australian Open title, could be a beneficiary of the six-time champion’s exit, after losing four of his five Melbourne finals to the Serb.
But Murray, who replaced Djokovic as world number one late last year said the absence of his great Grand Slam rival did not immediately help his cause.
– Ankle ‘feels good’ –
“For me, it doesn’t change anything unless I was to potentially reach the final, because I can’t play Novak in the fourth round or in the third round,” Murray said.
“I don’t worry about that really. Obviously, if you’re to get to the final, then it has an effect.
“A lot of the times when I’ve been in the final here, I’ve played against him. Had some tough ones.
“I wasn’t scheduled to play Novak today, so my job was to concentrate on Sam and to go into that match with a clear head and a good game plan and try to play well. I did that.”
Murray showed no signs of discomfort after rolling his right ankle in his previous match and moved around the court freely against the 31st-ranked Querrey.
“It was sore yesterday and a little bit stiff this morning. But it feels good,” Murray said.
“After the first few games, where I was maybe slightly hesitant, I moved really well towards the end of the first set, so that was really good.”
Querrey took the game to the top seed in the opening set, coming to the net and his deep forehand troubling the Scot.
But Murray scrambled well in defence and got the vital service break in the ninth game with a deft lob over the tall American.
He then served out for the opening set in 42 minutes.
Murray was warming to the task and got a double break to rip through the second set in 29 minutes to take control.
It was the eighth meeting between the pair with Querrey’s only victory over Murray coming in winning the title at Los Angeles in 2010.
Querrey was bidding to post his second career win over a world number one after conquering Djokovic in the third round of last year’s Wimbledon.