Andy Murray was more than happy to leave the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to take care of business in Indian Wells. The Scot has more pressing issues on his mind.
Murray had just lost to Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night, a topsy-turvy match that the world No.7 eventually took 6-7, 6-3, 6-1 in the blistering heat of the Californian desert. Then again, Murray rather fancied that he might lose – he was not match-tight and he had not been playing to his own high standards in the previous three rounds. Del Potro was more of a personal examination for the Scot than a major challenge for a Masters title. It was a test to see exactly what state his game was in and how much he had yet to do.
“I didn’t think I played particularly well the first few matches and I still won,” Murray said, putting his week into perspective. “The last few years here, I haven’t played well and I’ve lost. Today I played some decent stuff – it wasn’t consistent enough. I didn’t play well enough for a long enough period of time to win against a top player.
“But I need to just keep working and see the things I can improve on because, obviously, it doesn’t matter how much you practise – you can hit the ball great in practice or work on loads of things but, when you’re in those tight situations, you can’t substitute match play and playing in tournaments. So, it’s good that I managed to get four matches here and a couple of doubles, which I haven’t had the last couple of years and, hopefully, that will help me in Miami.”
The Sony Open opens for business on Wednesday, an indentikit Masters event on the other side of the country. Ideally, Murray would like to be back to his best, or near it, by the time he plays his first match but, if he is not, he will not be too concerned. Taking a six-week break after the Australian Open, he trained hard, practised long and tried to prepare himself for one of the toughest stretches of the season – the clay court run into the French Open and then the immediate switch to grass for Wimbledon and its build up. If the price he has to pay for that training block is a few duff results in Indian Wells and in Miami then so be it. Murray is looking at the bigger picture.
“A hundred per cent I would take that break again,” he said. “You have to look further down the road sometimes and not just focus on one event. The tour is extremely hard and physical and I hope by taking a break now – I wasn’t expecting to play perfect tennis this week or play my best – when I get to French Open, Wimbledon time, hopefully I’ll be a bit fresher than I have been the past few years.”
At least he will know what to expect when he gets to Florida. He has an apartment in Miami and uses that as his base for training. The fickle sea breeze and the hot, humid air mean the conditions are direct opposites to those in Indian Wells and it takes some players a while to adapt. “The first few days practising, it does feel unbelievably slow,” he said. “The balls here in the desert are so fast through the air and, in the last few years, I haven’t really felt comfortable with it. Obviously, today it was extremely hot so the ball was bouncing even higher so it’s quite hard to flatten shots out, you always feel like you need to play with a bit of spin to control the ball and I’ve just not played well in these conditions.
“But I needed matches like today against Juan. My last match before today, I didn’t play well at all. And I needed to play a match like today just to see the things that I need to tighten up on so that, hopefully, next week if I get the opportunity to play Juan or Rafa or Novak in Miami, then I’ll hopefully play a better match.”
And if he doesn’t, he will not be too bothered. It is how he plays against the big boys at the French Open and Wimbledon that really matters.
n In the women’s event No.8 seed Caroline Wozniacki outlasted fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a two-and-a-half hour semi-final that included 14 service breaks. Wozniacki, the 2011 Indian Wells champion, will play Maria Sharapova, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over No. 13 Maria Kirilenko, in today’s final.