It CANNOT be easy being Andy Murray. Not only is he the third best tennis player on the planet but he is also a master tactician, a tournament strategist and, obviously, a devoted husband and soon-to-be father.
Incidentally, he is also safely through to the second round of the US Open and an appointment with Adrian Mannarino today.
On Tuesday night, he beat Nick Kyrgios 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 to notch up his fourth consecutive win against the Australian. He was too clever, too consistent and too experienced for his talented but erratic young rival.
When he played Kyrgios at the Australian Open, Murray made hay by serving out wide to the Australian’s forehand. Kyrgios had learned his lesson this time and camped out on that line waiting for the delivery. So Murray simply changed tack, pinged a few big ones down the middle and left his opponent shaking his head and muttering darkly about his lot. Murray was going to give him nothing to work with.
Andy Roddick was watching with admiration and awe. Tweeting after the match, he said: “Murray is a stud. I hope people realize how massive his tennis IQ is when they are watching him. If I wanted a scouting report he’d be my guy.”
Murray was pleased with his performance and now that the tricky opening round is behind him he is looking forward to settling into a steadier rhythm for the next couple of rounds.
“It was a tough match,” he said. “I served pretty well for the most part. Hit my second serve extremely well in the fourth set. That’s something I’ll hopefully keep doing as the tournament goes on.
“But it was hard for me to kind of go out there and be really aggressive or play the way I wanted to because it’s very hard against him. He’s a very powerful guy. He goes for unpredictable shots. You don’t know exactly what to expect each point. A lot of the time I felt like I was just reacting and ended up having to do quite a bit of defending and running because of that.
“But against him, you’re going to have to play that way at times. So hopefully in the next round, maybe I’ll have a little bit more time, be a little bit more comfortable out on the court, be able to play a little bit different.”
Mannarino is next in line for the Murray treatment and the Frenchman is not expecting much from the encounter. It is easy to see why. The Scot’s career record against French players is won 77, lost 14 and his record against left-handed players (like Mannarino) is won 69, lost 18. And of those losses, 15 have been to Rafael Nadal.
Murray has played Mannarino only once before, winning 6-3, 6-3 in Indian Wells back in March. The memory of that brought little comfort for Mannarino.
“I played well, I thought,” he said. “But it was still two sets. Andy is in a different league. But I have nothing to lose so I will go for it – why not?”
Murray has already done his scouting report on the world No 35 and he is being his usual, cautious self about the match.
“He’s a tricky player,” said Murray. “He’s a lefty. He hits the ball extremely flat off both sides. Very short, compact swings. Excellent timing. He has very little racket-head speed on either of his shots but he has phenomenal timing and that’s where he generates his power from. He’s quick. Good athlete. Very good hands. Talented guy.”
With that dealt with, it was on to matters of tournament management. As play began yesterday, 12 players had pulled up lame and withdrawn mid-match. But with £25,790 on offer to a first-round loser anyone would be willing to shuffle on court and hobble about a bit just to pick up the pay cheque.
On the opening night of the tournament, Vitalia Diatchenko lasted eight games, 30 minutes and won just five points against Serena Williams before retiring hurt. She was injured before she got to New York but she was not going to miss the chance to play for a bit and collect her winnings.
“For me that’s such an easy thing to fix,” Murray said. “I think that the prize money is now so high, and players have fought very hard at times to get this prize money so high, so that if a player is injured and they show up here and they’re directly into the main draw by right and they’ve worked the whole year to get themselves into that position, just give them the first-round prize money.
“Allow the lucky loser to step in and have the opportunity to play again. The lucky losers would be delighted and the players don’t have to go on the court and embarrass themselves. With the match against Serena, I was like ‘What’s going on?’ If I had paid money to watch that, I wouldn’t be happy. But I also understand that from the Diatchenko’s point of view that it’s a lot of money and she’s earned the right to go on the court, but she’s clearly injured. It’s such an easy thing to fix, I just don’t know why they don’t do that.”
So, with his tennis in good nick before he got to New York, his homework already done for the next round and his vision for tennis organised, Murray could take the rest of the night off. When you are Andy Murray, actually playing tennis matches is the easy bit.