US Open: Leading man Andy Murray keen to set right example to next generation
Britain had three singles players into the fourth round of a major for the first time since 1964 after Murray, Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta all progressed at Flushing Meadows.
Dan Evans bowed out in five thrilling sets to Stan Wawrinka in the third round, after spurning a match point against the world No 3, while Konta was beaten yesterday by surprise package Anastasija Sevastova in the fourth round.
But it remains an outstanding tournament for British players, particularly given Edmund, 21, Evans, 26, and Konta, 25, should all have the primes of their careers ahead of them.
Murray has been a driving force behind the breakthrough group, especially for the men, who have both cited the world No 2’s work ethic as a shining example to follow.
The three-time major champion, who plays Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the last 16 at Flushing Meadows later today, says he too is benefiting from his compatriots.
“What I like the most about practising with them is I have a responsibility to work hard and push myself,” said Murray.
“If I’m doing a training session with them, I want to beat them. I don’t want to lose to them. If it’s on the bike or the Versaclimber (an exercise machine), I really want to push myself and beat them.
“It’s not so much necessarily learning, but I feel like when I’m on the court with them, I really want to work hard and show that this is what you have to do.
“Maybe if it was someone from another country, I wouldn’t feel the same. I train better probably with them than I do with others I think.”
Murray has grown close to Edmund and Evans through their Davis Cup exploits together but he never lets up in training.
“Have I ever lost in practice? Yeah, occasionally. I believe I’ve lost a practice set,” quipped Murray.
“Physical stuff, no, not yet. But I’d imagine that soon, as I’m getting older, they’re getting stronger, that will start to happen unfortunately. But not yet.”
Murray will turn his attention to his own game when he takes on a resurgent Dimitrov for a place in the last eight.
Dimitrov has struggled to live up to expectations since his run to the 2014 Wimbledon semi-finals, but he appointed Murray’s former coach Dani Vallverdu this summer and the improvement has been notable.
Murray and Vallverdu split in November 2014, five months after the Briton had made Amelie Mauresmo his lead coach.
“We’re still getting to know each other. First of all he’s a great guy,” Dimitrov said of Vallverdu.
“I know how to play tennis. Now it’s more the strategic way, how you’re going to prepare for big matches, big tournaments.
“So far I think we’ve been doing a great job. Just simplicity, that’s the key right now. Do your stuff, work, go out there, give 100 per cent each match.”
Murray lost to Dimitrov in three close sets at Miami in March and endured a surprise defeat to the Bulgarian at Wimbledon two years ago. Overall, however, he has won six of their nine meetings.
“He’s a very good player, obviously. He has good feel, moves well,” said Murray said.
“He’s obviously not played his best the last 18 months or so, but definitely the last few weeks has been playing very well, getting back to a level that he’s capable of playing at.
“I expect it to be very hard. I’ll be ready for that. I’ll need to play better than Saturday if I want to win.”
Evans said losing to Wawrinka on Saturday night was a “heartbreaker” after he came within one point of a shock victory in the US Open third round.
Evans twice led by a set and had match point in the fourth against the world No 3, but he failed to convert as Wawrinka came back to win 4-6 6-3 6-7 (6/8) 7-6 (10/8) 6-2. The British No 2 left Louis Armstrong Stadium to a standing ovation, but it was Wawrinka who advanced to meet either Australia’s Nick Kyrgios or Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko in the last 16.
“It’s a bit of a heartbreaker really,” Evans said. “I don’t really know what to say. It was a tough one to take.
“It’ll probably hurt a bit for a while. It’s disappointing, how it played out.
““I’ve never been in that situation before, especially against someone as good as him. It’s just not easy, is it?
“Being that close, I was thinking about winning the match. Whoever says you don’t think about winning the match at that point is full of it.”