Murray scores big points by defeating Davydenko

Times Staff Writer

The future of British tennis hasn’t turned 20 yet and resembles one of those puppies yet to grow into its huge paws.

When Andy Murray dispatched Russian Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets at Indian Wells on Wednesday, gaining a quarterfinal spot in the Pacific Life Open, he continued to show that there are bright days ahead for tennis lovers across the pond.

Not only was his 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory impressive and decisive, but Murray was not the least bit bashful about noting its significance.


“This was about playing the big points better than the guy who is No. 4 in the world,” said Scotland’s Murray, who is No. 13 and who has started the 2007 season 18-3. As recently as 2004, when he won the U.S. Open juniors, Murray was No. 514. He got as high as No. 16 last year, when he was listed at 6 feet 1. Now, he appears to be closer to 6-4, is starting to hit huge serves in key spots, and won’t even be 20 until May 15.

Three of his points in the tiebreaker were the result of 130-mph-plus serves -- two service-winners and a 130-mph ace to win it. That seemed to take the heart out of Davydenko, a grinder whom Murray categorized afterward as a “ball machine.”

“Once I got into the tiebreak,” Murray said, “I served really well at the end ... and that was the reason I won.”

In a tournament left wide open by Roger Federer’s early departure, there is much work left for Murray if he is to break through for a prestigious first ATP Masters Series title. His quarterfinal opponent will be German Tommy Haas, a surprisingly lopsided winner over Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez.

Haas’ win, a 6-3, 6-2 hourlong waltz, came against the tournament’s fifth-seeded player who made it to this year’s Australian Open final by making only three unforced errors and hitting 42 winners in the semifinal against Haas.

Wednesday night, with a large crowd and lots of Chilean flags and fans singing for Gonzalez’s good fortune, Haas, seeded ninth, made eight unforced errors and hit 22 winners.

The Haas-Gonzalez match didn’t begin until 9:15 p.m., following a women’s quarterfinal between Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Shahar Peer of Israel that went on for 2 hours 53 minutes in a 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory by Hantuchova.

Hantuchova has won one previous title, at this event in 2002. She came back from a 3-5 deficit in a tiebreaker that included several points in which both players resorted to standing well behind the baseline and hitting moon balls. Peer, seeded 11th, hit a shaky forehand wide on match point.

Hantuchova, seeded 14th, will play China’s Li Na, seeded 12th, in one women’s semifinal. Li won her first set against Russia’s Vera Zvonareva, then fell behind in the second, 5-1, before rallying to win, 7-5, 6-4.

The other men’s quarterfinal in the top part of the draw will pit Spain’s David Ferrer against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. Ferrer is seeded 14th, Djokovic 12th.

Ferrer beat fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya, 30, a veteran who was trying to rekindle some of his best tennis memories by making a deep run into the tournament that propelled him into his brief, and only, stay at No. 1.

The 24-year-old Ferrer lost to Moya at Indian Wells last year, but has since advanced to No. 15 and won a tournament in Auckland in January. After Moya started fast Wednesday, Ferrer prevailed, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Djokovic, like Murray two months away from his 20th birthday, has quietly marched to No. 13, came into his match with France’s Julien Benneteau, conqueror of James Blake in the second round, with a 15-4 record this year. Benneteau was no match, losing, 6-3, 6-1.