In my Day 1 Australian Open blog I told you to look out for upsets. While some seeds lost on Day 1, two top 5 seeds were in real trouble in Day 2.
On an extremely hot and blustery day in Melbourne both Andy Murray and Samantha Stosur found themselves down a set and facing an opponent that was blasting winners. Murray was able to outlast Ryan Harrison winning by two breaks in the fourth set. However, Sam Stosur was not so fortunate. The last grand slam winner went down in straight sets fueling the notion that she wilted under the pressure of the intense Australian desire for an Australian to win the their home grand slam.
Why was Murray able to pull out his match and Stosur not? Well, Murray was playing much closer to form than Stosur. In fact, Stosur has not achieved much since the US Open victory. Therefore, it seemed Murray had a lot more confidence and trust in his game and was able to hang in there on day filled with tough conditions.
Match toughness and recent performances are not the only reasons why Murray won and Stosur did not. Sorana Cirstea of Romania deserves credit. Her level did not drop after winning the first set. She continued to be aggressive and control the court. Ryan Harrison similarly controlled the court in the first set but seemed to hit the wall in the second. Murray broke him early and his level dropped significantly. So, while we want to put all of the credit and blame on the top seeds, truly Cirstea won the match by playing aggressive, confident, intense tennis. It was nice to see because many of the matches did not embody this kind of tennis. Instead it looked like players were exhausted and worn out early in the matches.
Another reason why Andy Murray defeated Ryan Harrison is that he did not hit the panic button. Too often players panic when they meet a hot player; they give up on the game plan and look lost or try ineffective plays. It was interesting commentary during the changeover between the first and second set. The question the commentator had was, and I'm paraphrasing, "Does Murray change his game or continue to play the way he is and hope his opponent's level drops?"
Maybe Murray became more aggressive, but for the most part it seemed he stuck to his game plan and it paid off. Will that work against Djokovic, Nadal or Federer? Likely he will have to be more aggressive to beat these guys but what we know about Andy Murray is that he can play in different ways and yet has the fortitude to stick with his game plan against a hot opponent.