Dubai: Andy Murray scored his most one-sided victory for eight months and his easiest win over a top 50 player for nearly six years when he trounced Joao Sousa, the Portuguese number one, 6-0, 6-2.
His rapid fire win on Wednesday books a place in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open.
It lasted less than an hour and confirmed the impression that the former Wimbledon and US Open champion is a far fitter and more confident player now than at any time during 2014, and capable once again of winning big titles.
Murray served more consistently than in his opening match, applied consistent pressure whilst playing within himself, and had the match completely under control from the moment he broke serve early in the second set.
The unfortunate Sousa, ranked 50, was increasingly rattled into more errors, and did not get on to the scoreboard until the ninth game after which he very briefly showed glimpses of the form which once took him inside the top 40
“Today I thought I just picked the right shots and played the right way when he was struggling,” Murray said.
“I didn`t give him any free points. I didn`t make, you know, just sort of needless errors.
“You know, I wasn`t just going for shots just because I was up 4-0. I thought I made good decisions and didn`t give him anything for free, and he was getting more frustrated because he couldn`t get any free points and then was going for more and more shots and obviously making more errors because of it.”
The only negative feelings after his quietly rapid performance came when a questioner inadvertently reminded Murray of criticisms he received here three years ago when he admitted after a defeat that he had used the match for practice. Were there areas of his game he was trying to work on, he was now asked.
“It`s funny how, when you win matches, it`s okay to say you`re trying something out, and when you lose matches, you`re not allowed to say that,” Murray replied with an edge to his voice, explaining that “I am a wee bit careful when I say about trying out things, because of when I was here a few years ago.”
Murray gained his biggest cheer when he hinted he might wear a kilt for his wedding to Kim Sears, the daughter of a well-known English coach in a few weeks` time.
He also suggested that last year`s modest form had been partly due to the loss of his coach Ivan Lendl, the former French Open champion, as well as his protracted recovery from a back operation.
“My game, I think, suffered a little bit because of that, as well,” he said.
“You know, now I feel like, you know, I`m heading in the right direction again. I feel like my body is good, which is obviously a big part of it.
“I think when you feel physically strong, I do think that makes you a bit stronger mentally, as well. I definitely believe the two are,?well, for me, anyway, they are very, very closely linked.”
Murray thus looks a good bet for a semi-final place, where the seedings say he should face Roger Federer, a six-time former champion.
He next plays Borna Coric, a Croatian lucky loser, who also had a little luck at the end of his long drawn out win over Marcos Baghdatis, the former Australian Open finalist.
The Cypriot wild card entry retired with cramp at four points all in the final set tie-break, having led 5-3 in in the final set and being unable to close the match out at 5-4 on his serve. The score was 6-4, 3-6, 6-6 (4-4 retired).
Another thriller was won by Richard Gasquet. The former number one Frenchman overcame Roberto Bautista Agut, the seventh seeded Spaniard, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), recovering from 4-2 down in the final set for the second successive time (the first was against Andreas Seppi on Monday) and saving a match point at 6-7 in the final set tie-break before prevailing in two hours and 21 minutes.