Andy Murray came through a real tussle against Joao Sousa in four sets to claim the match 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours and 37 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.
Heading into the contest, Sousa made it through to the third round courtesy of a four sets win over Santiago Giraldo. The Portuguese had lost to Murray on all six occasions and suffered 16 straight defeats against top ten opponents, with his last victory coming over David Ferrer in Kuala Lumpur, 2013. Today he put up far more of a fight than expected, making it a real contest.
Strong Start For Sousa
The world number two, who crushed Sam Groth in the previous round, was stung into action in game three as Sousa strung together four excellent points. This resulted in a comeback from 40-0 down on the Murray serve to earn a break point opportunity. The Scot responded with aggressive ball striking, drawing the error and then proceeding to serve an ace and finish with a superb cross court forehand winner on the run to hold serve.
The Brit was under pressure once more in his following service game as a double fault brought up another break point chance. But the two time Grand Slam champion responded well with a couple aces to take a 3-2 lead.
Murray Moves Ahead
After a shaky start, Murray clicked into gear, extending the rallies and drawing the errors from his opponent who was not firing as strongly as he was early on. This allowed the world number two to get the first break. Things went from bad to worse for Sousa after he played another loose service game, producing back to back errors to hand the first set to the second seed 6-2 in rather quick fashion.
Murray Loses Momentum
With the four time finalist in Melbourne in complete control, it was surprising for Murray to go down 0-30 on serve. Another ace helped him pull it back, only for Sousa to still force another break point opportunity. Once again the big points bring out the best in Murray as he was determined not to drop serve, finishing with a drop shot and a volley to finish.
After denying the Scot a hold of serve the Portuguese hit another overhead smash winner in the game to earn another chance to break. The 32nd seed finally got his reward, drawing the error to make the perfect start to set number two.
Sousa was looking to consolidate the break up 40-15 on serve, but a string of forehand winners cross court from Murray put the server under pressure at break point down. The world number two drove the cross court backhand just wide, subsequently allowing the Portuguese to secure a vital hold.
Poor play from the second seed continued, falling 0-30 down once again. The Brit responded, only to double fault to present the chance for a double break. Sousa missed his chance to punish the second serve after only finding the net and it cost him as Murray escaped with the service hold.
Both players then held serve fairly comfortably over the next few games leaving the score line at 5-3, Sousa just one game away from the second set. Another string of uncharacteristic errors from Murray on serve presented the 32nd seed with two set points. To the Portuguese’s and the crowds delight he took the set 6-3. There were 16 unforced errors in that set from Murray, which is very unlike him.
The Scot Strikes Back
Murray was clearly not very happy with his game, especially after netting a routine rallying backhand on break point. The second seed pushed on and drew errors from Sousa to get the break of serve at the start of the third set.
In the fifth game a sensational 24 stroke rally helped Murray get back into the Portuguese’s service game, who had led 40-0. It was a double fault which made it five points in a row for the world number two and proved to be the 32nd seed’s demise in this set, gifting the double break.
Sousa recovered from 0-30 down when serving to stay in the set to force Murray to serve it out. The world number two had no problems on serve, securing the set 6-2.
Four Time Finalist Firing In The Fourth Set
In the opening game of the fourth set, Sousa stopped the rot as he saved a break point and held serve to take a 1-0 lead. The key breakthrough came for the second seed in the fifth game, firing a backhand cross court winner to finally break the Portuguese’s resistance and take a 3-2 lead.
Once Murray gained the initiative there was no looking back. After game points passed Sousa by, a double fault presented the Brit with a chance for a double break, which he capitalized on. A sixth double fault of the match for Murray did not hamper his service game as he closed out the match 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Sousa put up an excellent fight and proved to be a real test for Murray. It’s onto the fourth round for the second seed though, and up next: either Bernard Tomic or John Millman.