24 Jan 2016

Murray win overshadowed by collapse

12:42 pm on 24 January 2016

Tennis world No.2 Andy Murray moved into the Australian Open fourth round in surreal circumstances, completing a four-set victory over Joao Sousa after his father-in-law had collapsed ill a few hundred metres away.

The British tennis player Andy Murray.

The British tennis player Andy Murray. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Scot was unaware throughout the 158-minute contest that Nigel Sears, the coach of Serbian Ana Ivanovic and father of his expectant wife Kim, had collapsed in the stands on Rod Laver Arena.

The 28-year-old performed his normal victory celebrations after reaching the last 16 for the eighth straight year but was ushered off without the usual on-court post-match interview.

Murray had previously said he would pull out of the tournament and return to Britain to be with his wife should she go into labour with their first child, due in mid-February.

The Scot, who had never lost to the Portuguese in six previous meetings, broke twice to win the first set fairly easily, finding the lines with his winners and matching Sousa's pace around the court.

Sousa, though, believed he was in the form of his life after practising with Rafa Nadal over the close season and was out to prove it.

He broke Murray's first service game of the second set and kept up the pressure with ferocious groundstrokes to force the second seed to drop his first set of the tournament.

"At the beginning I think he was extremely aggressive, very intense," Murray, who did not hold a post-match news conference, said in a statement to the ATP.

"So he was getting into position to dictate a lot of points with his forehand.

"He was hitting the ball great, close to the lines, and making me do a lot of running."

Murray wrested back the momentum by breaking his opponent at the start of the third, however, and once he had gone 2-1 up a hard-fought victory always looked on the cards.

"Once I started to hit the ball a little bit cleaner towards the end of the match I was able to get him in his backhand corner and dictate more of the points," Murray added. "It was tricky. I didn't feel great.

"I just tried to keep fighting. At the end I was actually hitting the ball well and felt better at the end. It was good to get through that one."

The Scot, runner-up four times at Melbourne Park, sealed victory when the Portuguese went long and will next face Australian Bernard Tomic.

The medical emergency overshadowed the action on day six in which Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza was dumped out of the tournament and Victoria Azarenka was given a huge boost in her bid to win a third title at Melbourne Park.

The 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka also reached the last 16, staying on track for a blockbuster semi-final against Murray.

Muguruza, rated one of the few women capable of threatening champion Serena Williams, slumped out at the hands of unseeded Czech Barbora Strycova, her 6-3 6-2 loss punching a hole in the draw.

With Romanian world No.2 Simona Halep sent packing in the opening round, seventh seed Angelique Kerber remains the top woman in the draw's lower half.

But the path to a dream final against Williams seems laid out for 14th seed Azarenka.

A succession of injuries over the past two years and a bout of depression have slowed the Belarussian, who clinched back-to-back titles at Melbourne Park in 2012-13.

But her 6-1 6-1 humiliation of Japanese qualifier Naomi Osaka was her eighth win in succession and further evidence the sleeping giant has awakened.

"I had a lot of changes and emotions from last year that I still didn't know how to handle," the 26-year-old told reporters.

"It changed my life... Starting to be happy and organised and disciplined off the court, it changed my life on the court, definitely."

Following Roger Federer's 300th victory in grand slams on day five and Maria Sharapova's 600th on tour, Wawrinka notched his 400th career win with a triumph over Czech Lukas Rosol 6-2 6-3 7-6.

The Swiss fourth seed has been battling a cold at Melbourne Park but his game was in rude health as he smashed 18 aces and 45 winners in the late afternoon sunshine at Rod Laver Arena.

"As long as I'm feeling good on the court, that's the most important thing," a raspy-voiced Wawrinka said.

The 30-year-old Swiss must next weather the serving storm of Canadian dark horse Milos Raonic, who despatched Serb Viktor Troicki 6-2 6-3 6-4 at the Margaret Court Arena.

A quarter-finalist last year, 13th seed Raonic dedicated his win to victims of a school shooting in the remote Canadian town of La Loche, where four people were killed and a number injured on Friday.

"Stuff like this doesn't happen much back home," he told reporters.

"I'm sure not just in that small community but throughout Canada it was a lot of people that were sort of heartbroken over it."

With a number of high seeds falling by the wayside, doors opened for lesser lights to shine.

Among them, Australia-born Johanna Konta defeated Czech Denisa Allertova 6-2 6-2 to become the first British woman into the last 16 at Melbourne Park in nearly 30 years.

Zhang Shuai, the last Chinese player left in the singles tournament, continued her fairytale run to reach the fourth round, having never previously been past the first round of a grand slam in 14 attempts.