Melbourne - Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was taken to four sets and smashed
his racquet in frustration before finally ending 'lucky loser' Stephane
Robert's dream run at the Australian Open on Monday.
won the first two sets but passed up three match points in the third -
and totalled a racquet in a fit of pique - before beating the
Frenchman 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 to reach the last eight.
who at 119 has a ranking 115 places below Murray, exited with his head
held high after taking the first set off the world number four all
The 33-year-old was the first lucky loser - someone
who loses in qualifying, but gains a place via a withdrawal - to reach
the tournament's last 16, and the oldest man since Andre Agassi in 2005.
a fun player to watch but not fun to play against," said Murray, as the
departing Robert milked applause from the crowd. "He made it very
tricky for me, he plays all the shots very unorthodox."
match-up looked like a gift for Murray, who is seeking his third Grand
Slam title and has contested three finals in Melbourne. But the Scot
didn't have it all his own way.
It took him three games to get the
first break, when Robert sent a forehand long, and he had the
Frenchman's serve under severe pressure again at 4-1, when another error
gave up a second break.
The Scot's retrieving was exceptional and
Robert was a mere onlooker as Murray set up three set points on his own
serve, pouncing on the first with a simple forehand winner.
started the second with another two breaks and as the contest
degenerated, there were big cheers when Robert held for only the second
time in the match to make it 4-1.
Despite the gap in quality,
Murray became agitated enough to berate himself and he faced a break
point and needed four set points - two wasted with double-faults -
before he could confirm a two-set lead.
Robert was finding his
feet and drew cheers when he lobbed Murray on his way to winning his
first service game, and even louder applause when he held his next serve
Murray raised his intensity and showed his desire with
an acrobatic, back-to-the-net smash en route to keeping it on serve at
And after seven break points, and more audible self-talk from
Murray, the Briton finally got the break he needed to control the third
set when he drilled a backhand return down the line for 4-3.
it was far from over, and Murray blew two match points - the first with
a double-fault - on the way to being broken back for 5-5 before Robert
forced a tiebreaker.
The Scot found himself 0-3 down in the
breaker before hauling himself back into it and conjuring a third match
point at 6-4, which Robert bravely saved.
And Robert made no
mistake on his first set point, and when he successfully challenged a
line call to take it into four sets, Murray's racquet bore the brunt of
With his coach Ivan Lendl looking grim in the
stands, Murray soon went ahead in the fourth when Robert double-faulted
to hand over an early break.
The Frenchman folded quickly and
although he saved another match point at 5-2, Murray finally converted
to get off court in two hours and 42 minutes.