New York: Andy Murray advanced at the U.S. Open on Saturday with a gritty win over Spain's Feliciano Lopez, admitting afterward he enjoys playing in the current era of tennis despite his lack of grand slam success.
American actor Kevin Spacey was an unexpected presence at Murray's news conference after the Scotsman's 7-6 7-6 4-6 7-6 victory that set up a fourth-round clash with powerful Canadian Milos Raonic for a place in the quarter-finals.
US Open 2012
The Olympic champion has the unwanted tag of being the best player without a major title.
Lopez said that without 17-times grand slam champion Roger Federer, 11-times winner Rafael Nadal and five-times titlist Novak Djokovic on tour, Murray would have been a long-term world number one.
Murray said he was willing to trade titles for the challenge of trying to beat three of the best players of all time.
"Obviously if they weren't there, there would be more chances for me to win major tournaments," Murray said. "But I've improved as a player because I'm competing against them, as well.
"If you look at it purely on how much people have won then, yeah, I would obviously rather be in a different era.
"But I'm playing better tennis than some guys may have in the past because I've had a chance to compete with them, to play at this level against those guys."
Murray was made to fight for three hours and 53 minutes against Lopez inside Louis Armstrong Stadium while Federer was breezing past another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, in straight sets in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Fighting so hard to win one major, Murray admitted he looked at Federer's total of 17 slams with awe.
"Everything that he's achieved, it's incredible," Murray said. "But that happens in a lot of sports. You have exceptional players that have a combination of many things from great work ethic, talent, all the other intangibles.
"They're incredibly talented individuals that have learned how to use their skills in the most important situations. I can see how it happens. But the consistency in doing it over such a long time is what is so impressive.
"Roger is 31, he's still number one in the world, he's playing great tennis and it's good for our sport. I'm sure it will be a while before someone breaks his record of majors."
Lopez described Murray, who has lost finals at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, as the complete player.
"He reads the game well," he said. "He's fast. He has every shot. He's improving every year. He should have a few majors already. In another time, he would be number one in the world, for sure."
The 15th-seeded Raonic blasted past American wildcard James Blake 6-3 6-0 7-6.
Raonic has hit a tournament-leading 89 aces - the next best is Gilles Muller with 60 - with his biggest thunderbolt being delivered at 143 mph (230km).
"He's definitely going to be dangerous," Murray said.