In a tournament of shocks and upsets, merely being in Paris with a job still to do is something of an achievement. The second round is not yet completed but the list of grand slam champions making their way to the airport is growing by the hour.
In such circumstances, Andy Murray has good cause to be pleased with himself. His opening match against Andrey Golubev was nothing special but it was enough to get the job done and get him into the second round – and that is something that Stan Wawrinka and Li Na failed to achieve.
Today, Murray will be hoping for more of the same as his first-round effort when he takes on Marinko Matosevic – nothing clever, nothing fancy and, with luck, a swift and efficient win.
Matosevic is ranked a lowly 66 in the world pecking order and, although his nickname is Mad Dog, he is more of a one-trick pony. He can hit the ball hard but tends to hit it to the same place at the same pace. In theory, Murray should be relatively untroubled by the muscular Australian but it is the bread-and-butter matches against the lower-ranked players that have been causing him trouble of late.
He played brilliantly against Rafael Nadal in Rome a couple of weeks ago but, then again, he had played like a plank against Santiago Giraldo the week before in Madrid.
This, though, is a grand slam and the four major championships work a special kind of magic on Murray. No matter what his form is going into the slams, he always manages to save his best tennis for the biggest events.
“When I go to the gym and stuff and if I’m struggling in a gym session or anything it’s always these events that make me want to keep going,” Murray said. “To push through the hard training sessions and put the hours in on the court and in the gym. So I think that, each time I arrive at one of these events, I feel very motivated, especially this year after missing last year [with a back injury].
“My motivation to do well in these events, and try to win them, is still the same as it was four or five or six years ago. Sometimes through the year, I could do a better job of getting myself up for every single match – that’s something that is a challenge for me moving forward. Because, to give yourself the best chance of winning these events, you need to perform well in the lead-up tournaments.
“My performances the week before the Australian Open, I normally play pretty well the first week of the year. At Queen’s, I usually play fairly well. Cincinnati, I’ve also had some good results as well. As I get closer to the slams I feel I start to get more hungry but I need to do a better job of that throughout the whole year.”
It is just unfortunate for Matosevic that he only seems to meet Murray when the Scot is at his hungriest. Last year, they met in the third round at Queen’s – and Murray cruised through – and now they face off again just as Murray is determined to make a mark on the red clay.
“I learnt a lot of lessons in Queen’s,” Matosevic recalled. “He won and went on to win Wimbledon. He’s one of the best players in the world. I’m just looking forward to it.”
What he is not looking forward to is more questions about his nickname. He was blissfully unaware of it until the crowd at the Sydney tournament started teasing him about it last year. Some wag had created a website, purporting to be Matosevic’s official site, on which it was claimed that the Australian was universally known as Mad Dog. When he heard about it, Matosevic really was mad.
“Mad Dog, what is that?” he harrumphed at the time. “Like a dog with rabies?” He has calmed down a bit since then but he is still known as one of the characters in the locker room, one that Murray has enjoyed some fun and games with.
“I like Ivan Lendl’s sense of humour, so I kind of started speaking to him [Murray] when he started working with Ivan,” said Matosevic. “Then we shared some fun times in the locker room since then.”
There will be little fun today, though, if Murray has his game face on. This is a grand slam and this is usually where Murray means business.
Meanwhile, Mary Pierce would be surprised if former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo became Murray’s new coach.
Mauresmo, the current France Fed Cup captain, was spotted watching Murray’s first-round win over Golubev and her countrywoman Pierce, a former French and Australian Open champion, told BBC Radio Five Live: “I know there has been a top men’s player who’s had a women’s coach before, but I’d be quite surprised if it was Amelie. But hey, anything is possible. I did notice that she was watching his match yesterday and I thought to myself, ‘Why is Amelie watching this match?’ We’ll know soon won’t we.”