* Murray eases quarter-finals
* Simon exhausted after Monfils match (Writes through with quotes)
By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Andy Murray lamented the ease of his victory over an exhausted Gilles Simon at the Australian Open on Monday despite it taking him to within three wins of back-to-back grand slam titles.
Frenchman Simon was a physical wreck after Saturday’s marathon third round victory over Gael Monfils and Murray barely had to move out of first gear to reach the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-1 6-3 win on Hisense Arena.
“It was kind of tough, a tough situation for both players - more obviously for him,” the U.S. Open champion told reporters.
”After the first few games, it didn’t feel like that competitive. At this stage of a grand slam you’re sort of geed up and prepared for a tough battle.
“That’s why it becomes hard because the emotions aren’t quite into it. You’re not quite necessarily feeling pressure, but you’re wanting to try to finish the match as quickly as possible.”
Simon had faced a battle just to get on court on Monday after his four-hour, 45-minute victory over Monfils but he managed to force his spindly legs around the court to break Murray twice.
The relentless pressure on his own service gradually took its toll, however, and Murray swept into the last eight with an easy pass for his eighth break on his second match point.
Murray will next face Frenchman Jeremy Chardy as he bids to secure a fourth successive semi-final berth at Melbourne Park, where his last two campaigns have ended in defeats to world number one Novak Djokovic.
Although he was not stretched by Simon, Murray was thankful that he was at least spared the sort of energy-sapping encounter that the Serbian experienced in his five-hour match against Stan Wawrinka on Sunday.
“(Simon) got tested very hard in his last round and couldn’t compete today (so) you can look at it both ways,” Murray added.
”You just got to work hard on the days off, practice all the things that you need to do better, hope that when the time comes that when you’re tested you play better.
“But I think this week, the first few matches... I think almost every single time when I’ve been broken, I’ve broken straight back, which is a good sign. Hope I can keep that up.”
The curse of the difficult second album is a well known phenomenon in rock music, where bands invest sometimes years of effort into a successful first release and then struggle to produce enough quality material to back it up with their second.
Grand slam titles have proved equally difficult to replicate for first-time winners and Murray is bidding to become the only player in the open era to immediately follow his maiden title with another at the next major.
To achieve the feat, he is likely to have to beat Roger Federer in the semi-finals and then overcome Djokovic in the final.
First, though, he must see off another French challenger in the unseeded Chardy, who won their meeting in Cincinnati last year for his first victory over the Briton.
Simon thought his compatriot might again prove a difficult obstacle for Murray to negotiate.
“Jeremy’s very aggressive, he has a huge serve, huge forehand. He’s able to hit winners at any moment,” Simon said.
“It’s gonna be interesting to see the beginning of the match, because if Jeremy manages to win maybe the first set, then I think anything can happen.” (Editing by John O‘Brien)