Rome Masters: Andy Murray sets up clash against Rafael Nadal in last eight
Andy Murray celebrated turning 27 in fine style, recording a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win over Jurgen Melzer at the Rome Masters.
Last Updated: 15/05/14 8:09pm
The birthday boy extended his perfect record against his Austrian opponent to 6-0 but didn't have it all his own way against the man from Vienna, particularly in a tight opening set.
Murray was broken in the very first game and trailed 3-1 after Melzer - who had knocked out Marin Cilic in the last round - held serve by flashing down his first ace of the contest.
However, he could do nothing to stop the seventh seed getting back on terms next time around, Murray breaking back after the opportunity had come about following a forehand winner.
The set continued on serve, albeit only after Melzer had failed to convert no fewer than five chances in a lengthy ninth game. His failure to take any of the opportunities that came his way proved crucial, as he mustered just a solitary point in a one-sided tie-breaker.
Murray continued the second set as he had finished the first, winning eight successive points to quickly move himself into a 2-0 advantage.
Melzer did show signs of recovery when he made it 3-3 with a rasping forehand, only to then immediately surrender his serve in the next game. Indeed, he lost it to love, putting the British no 1 in sight of a place in the last eight.
At 5-4 ahead Murray quickly found himself trailing 0-30 on his own serve. However, he duly reeled off four points in a row to reassert his authority before sealing the victory with a sixth ace of the afternoon.
"Last week in Madrid, to be beating (Nicolas) Almagro on clay, I played well in patches in that match. But there were also bits where I wasn't good at all," he told Sky Sports afterwards.
"This week I obviously wanted to try and play solid tennis as much as possible - I did a pretty good job of that today."
Next up will be reigning champion Nadal after the Spaniard battled back from a set down to defeat Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.
The top seed beat Youzhny, winning 12 of the last 13 games in a 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-1 win which took almost three hours.
"Andy will be a very tough match, he's playing well, but I'm confident I can do it," said Nadal, who added that if he does not take his chances against the Scot he "will be spending the weekend (at home) in Mallorca".
"I've had two long matches and I had hoped not to be on the court for so long, but that's the way it is."
Nadal and Murray have met 18 times with the Spaniard leading the head-to-head
13-5, including a straight sets win in their 2011 French Open semi-final.
The last time the pair met was in a hardcourt encounter in Tokyo in 2011 in which the Briton came out on top.
"I haven't played him for a long time, regardless of the last time it was on clay," said Murray after his win.
"I didn't play him at all when Ivan (Lendl) was coaching me, I think it's been at least two-and-a-half three years, so it would be good for me in case I have to potentially play him at the French Open."