ANDREY Kuznetsov’s girlfriend is not sure. So far she has been spot on with her predictions about the world No 96’s matches but, as her fella prepares to take on Andy Murray today, she does not know how the day will pan out.
On paper, it ought to be a straightforward win for Scotland’s former US Open and Wimbledon champion (until this year, Kuznetsov had only won two Grand Slam matches in seven attempts) but, as the opening day of the tournament proved, nothing is ever straightforward at the major championships.
Murray’s first match was going according to plan for two sets until his body seized up and he was stopped in his tracks by cramp. He is still not sure quite why it happened but, since then, he has been pilfering the salt from the players’ restaurant in an attempt to make sure it does not happen again.
“There are little 1 gram sachets of salt in the restaurant I take,” he said. “I have changed a few things, not so much what I’m eating but what I’m drinking. I’m making sure I have enough fluids down me and take a bit more salt to see if that helps. I had drunk enough in terms of quality but maybe something was missing. I will make sure I am on top of it for the rest of the tournament.
“The conditions are tough and you need to make sure you are on top of everything before matches so you don’t get caught out.”
He certainly looked in fine form against Matthias Bachinger for the one hour and 46 minutes it took him to wallop the German 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday night.
In the cool and very windy conditions in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Murray was in his element: he moved well, he hit the ball cleanly and he thoroughly enjoyed the unusual challenge in front of him. Bachinger attacked, he served and volleyed and he gave Murray the chance to use most of the tactics in his repertoire as he swatted his lowly-ranked rival away.
That win brought him to today’s encounter with Kuznetsov and his girlfriend’s predictions.
At Wimbledon, the Russian beat David Ferrer, then the world No 7, in the second round; here in New York, he beat Fernando Verdasco, the world No 37 in the second round – give Kuznetsov a Spaniard with a big reputation and he is off and running.
“It seems like a destiny,” Kuznetsov said. “Second time, very similar situation. First round I beat a local guy and then second round I play with a Spanish guy and beat him in five sets. Two slams, same situation. Before the match my girlfriend told me it’s probably going to be like a destiny and you should win in five sets. It happened like this.”
But when it comes to Murray, there are no words of wisdom or encouragement coming from the missus. She has gone alarmingly quiet and Kuznetsov knows he is in for an uphill struggle.
“I don’t think she has any ideas about Andy,” Kuznetsov said sadly. “I will just try to use my chances. No pressure. I will try to do my best, show my best tennis and use my chances.
“Obviously it’s the best year for me, the most successful. It’s good when you pass two rounds in two Grand Slams in a row. It means that your level is probably rising up so I’m happy about it.
“In this situation, there is no pressure for me and I can play. I can try to do some things and, for him, it’s probably going to be more difficult in this situation. But still he is a favourite.”
At least Kuznetsov has seen many of Murray’s matches – the same cannot be said of the Scot with Kuznetsov – he has not made a study of the 2009 Wimbledon junior champion (why would he?) but he intends to do his homework before taking to the court.
At the Grand Slams, anything can happen, so Murray wants to make sure it does not happen to him.
“I haven’t followed his progress that closely but he has obviously played some good tennis in the slams this year,” Murray said.
“He is lasting well in the five-set matches because Verdasco is a pretty fit guy and matches with him are always physical. He seems to be in good shape and it will be tough.
“I watched a little bit of his match on the TV before my own match. But I will get the full video of the match and talk about the tactics.”
Since Kuznetsov won junior Wimbledon, he has struggled to make the transition to the senior ranks. Coached by his father, Alexander, he has trudged around the world trying to find a way to break through, all to no avail.
Father and son have been living in each other’s pockets, getting on each other’s nerves and, even now, when life is looking up, Kuznetsov admits that, when the opportunity arises “I go somewhere else”.
But, for now, he will listen to dad, do what he is told and hope that he can repeat his giant-killing act.
“I’ll try to play aggressively,” he said. “That’s the way I try to play every game. I will try to show my best tennis, my aggressive tennis and I hope it will help me to get chances and to use them.”
Worryingly for him – and reassuringly for Murray – Kuznetsov’s girlfriend was still keeping schtum.