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Easy rider

Features - Tim Clement - Twitter: @SkyTennis_Tim Posted 24th January 2012 view comments

You wouldn't think it would be that hard to get a good match at a Grand Slam, but it's hard to imagine a much easier route for Andy Murray at the Australian.

Since dropping the first set against Ryan Harrison, the world number four has hardly been troubled in swiftly progressing through to the final eight.

After easing past world 101 Edouard Roger-Vasselin, it was all fun and games as Murray thrived on the kamikaze tactics of Michael Llodra.

Tim looks at Murray draw after defeats to Monfils and Tsonga saw it open up nicely

Tim looks at Murray draw after defeats to Monfils and Tsonga saw it open up nicely

There was no such entertainment on Monday with even Murray admitting it was "boring" as he dismantled the physically impaired Mikhail Kukushkin, with the converted Kazakh failing to hold a service game before retiring in the third set.

Murray revealed he has been eating sushi before every match so far at the Australian Open, and he'll be looking to consume another Japanese favourite when he meets Kei Nishikori on Wednesday.

Sky Bet Odds

Andy Murray has been cut from 9/2 to 4/1 to win the Australian Open. Bet here.

There are few reasons to suspect it will be anything but another simple win for Murray against the 24th seed.

Nishikori became the first Japanese player to make a Grand Slam quarter-final during the Open Era, but it has taken him 17 sets to get here after Monday's three-and-a-half-hour battle with world number six Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Ideal scenario

It could hardly have worked out any better for Murray, who for the second successive time saw the lower seed of his potential opponents prevail in a five-setter.

Nishikori is also playing mixed-doubles on his off day, probably not what the doctor would have ordered.

I was surprised to learn whilst chatting to a Japanese journalist that the 22-year-old has actually remodelled his game on Murray's, ditching his jack-hammer forehand for a higher percentage and more patient game, reinforced with a new-found dedication to the gym.

Much of this is likely to be as a result of his work with Brad Gilbert last year, although Murray joked when asked about his former coach's influence: "I think they maybe even stopped around Wimbledon time last year. He did start doing better after that."

Fitness test

Nishikori's fitness work will be tested to the limit against Murray, who cruised to a 6-3 6-0 victory in their only previous meeting en route to retaining his Shanghai Masters title last year.

Sky Bet give the 24th seed little hope, making him a 7/1 punt, I'd be more interested in a price on somebody back home asking why Murray is playing Nicky Shorey.

Murray moved in to 4/1 for the Australian Open after making the quarters, and the troubles Leyton Hewitt caused Novak Djokovic, the Scot's prospective semi-final opponent, on Monday's late, late session will give backers hope.

On the women's side of the draw, I was personally delighted to see Serena Williams ousted with my savings sitting on Kim Clijsters, who I'm not sure whether to love or hate after being put through THAT MATCH with Na Li.

Word had it that she was still in a lot of pain heading into her quarter-final final clash with Caroline Wozniacki, but she showed little sign of it in maintaining her perfect record against the Dane, who will in turn lose her world number one ranking to either Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova or Maria Sharapova.

Anyway, must dash, Kim needs some fresh ice - I hope she's been keeping it elevated.

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