By Richard Osborn
The numbers were stacked in Andy Murray’s favor. In four career encounters, the top-ranked Scotsman had never lost to Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, who had scraped his way through qualifying and into the second round. Pospisil himself was a dismal 3-20 over his career against Top 10 opponents, including 11 straight losses.
But the truth is, Murray has long struggled to find his best tennis in the desert. Outside of a run to the 2009 BNP Paribas Open final, where he fell to Rafael Nadal, his performances here have been spotty. In fact, Indian Wells and Monte-Carlo remain the only ATP World Tour 1000 events he has yet to capture. But few, if any, saw him falling to a qualifier ranked 129th in the world.
“I don't know exactly why it is, because in practice here normally I play pretty well,” said Murray of his frustrations in Indian Wells. “Some years I’ve played well. Some years it just hasn't quite happened for me. I don't know exactly why that is. I don't know if it is the conditions. I really don't know why I haven't played my best here over the years.”
Murray had faced the 26-year-old Pospisil here before, claiming a 6-1, 6-3 second-round decision in 2015. He met him in the Wimbledon quarters that year, too, winning 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. So he was more than familiar with his opponent’s sometimes-serve-and-volley game. But on Saturday night in Stadium 1, he just couldn’t solve him.
“He's always played that way. Maybe he was doing it better this evening,” said Murray, who dropped to 12-3 on the year. “He was maybe a bit more solid from the back, a bit more consistent from the back of the court. That allows you and gives you more opportunities to come to the net. If you're making mistakes in the first three, four shots of the rally, it’s not easy to come in on the correct ball. When you're a little bit more solid, you can be patient and wait for the right shot to come in on.”
The streaking Pospisil, who has now played four matches here this year including the qualifying rounds, moves on to face Serbian Dusan Lajovic, a 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2) winner over Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.