THAT Andy Murray outplayed and outwitted Marinko Matosevic at the French Open yesterday came as no surprise. That he out-served and out-returned the unfortunate Australian was to be expected. But that Murray was comprehensively out-sworn by his frustrated – and foul-mouthed – opponent was something new.
Murray’s language on court has always been on the fruity side, even when he is playing well. Ever the perfectionist, he does not take well to fluffed forehands and missed opportunities and tends to keep up a running commentary from the back of the court. And the bigger the fluff, the more choice the language. But yesterday, as he eased past Matosevic 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in a little under two hours, he was no more than mildly critical of his few failings.
He was even patient and polite when the thorny issue of his coaching arrangements was raised again. The latest name to be thrown into the ring is Amelie Mauresmo (she watched his first round match so that is a sure sign, apparently, that Murray is about to hire her). With only the merest hint of weariness in his voice, he said – again – that he was not about to make an appointment in the middle of a grand slam tournament.
“I haven’t spoken to her,” he said. “I haven’t said I won’t speak to her. Since stopping working with Ivan, in the last five or six weeks, every week there has been a different person I am supposed to be working with.
“I am not going to speak to anyone during a grand slam. I am concentrating on playing here for the next couple of weeks and then, when I get on the grass, I can start looking and get someone in place.”
With that out of the way, Murray was free to enjoy his victory and, after a patchy first-round performance, he was pleased that this was altogether better. His serve was impressive, his backhand was landing on a sixpence and his returns, particularly on Matosevic’s second serve, were deadly. There were times when he was taking that serve so early, he ran the risk of being arrested for theft – he was almost taking the ball off Matosevic’s racket strings.
Throughout it all, there were just a few odd comments: the occasional “no, Andy!” and “how could you miss that” but nothing to bring a blush to the faces of the courtside spectators. At the other end of the court, Matosevic was effing and blinding like a good ’un – he was being marmalised and he had no means of stopping it.
Only when Murray came to serve for the match did he throw in a couple errors and was broken for the only time in the match. Not that it made any difference – the result was never in doubt and cracking down another of those backhand returns, he responded by breaking Matosevic for the seventh time and heading for the third round.
“It was a good serving performance today,” Murray said, “and I returned very well on the second serve. I attacked it very well. My timing was there on both sides, forehand and backhand side on that shot. That was the best part of my game today.”
After two years of working with Ivan Lendl, he of the impassive and grim face that never so much as twitched through a match, Murray has learned to keep his emotions in check as he goes about his business.
There are still times when he gets frustrated but there was no way that Matosevic’s limited game was going to make the Scot’s blood boil – not in the chill, Parisian air.
“When things are going well, like today, it’s also a lot easier to control your emotions,” Murray said. “It’s something that, over the last five, six years, I think, has got better and something that I’ve worked on and tried to get better at and it’s something I can still improve on aside from all the stuff that you can work on in your game. That’s still something I’m working on today.
“I’m not the only one that talks to myself. I think what I say is fairly mild compared to the guys that speak the other languages that people don’t pick up on. Some of the stuff that guys say in other languages is a lot worse than the couple of words that I tend to use on the court. There are a few phrases that some of the guys use, and they’re not pretty. Some of the ones in Spanish aren’t great. Some of the Italian phrases, as well, are not so good. Some of the Serbian phrases also aren’t great, either.”
He may have to bite his lip a little harder when he takes on Philipp Kohlschreiber tomorrow – the German moved efficiently past Denis Istomin 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 yesterday and will relish the chance to face Murray on clay again. They last met four years ago on the Monte Carlo clay and Kohlschreiber barely had time to break a sweat as he rushed past Murray for the loss of just three games and, just last week, he won the clay court title in Dusseldorf.
“It’ll be very tough, a very tough match for me,” Murray said. “I played him once before on clay and I remember not playing particularly well. I was very disappointed after the match. He obviously won the tournament last week. He’s not dropped a set here, I don’t think. So he will be very tough. He’s a very good player.”
We will have to wait until Saturday to discover whether he is good enough to bring a rude word to Murray’s lips.