With luck, tomorrow when he faces Sam Querrey for a place in the fourth round of the Australian Open, both his body and his game will be behaving themselves and he will take one more step towards his first trophy in Melbourne. After that scratchy, awkward opening match against Illya Marchenko, the world No 1 was a different player yesterday as he walloped Andrey Rublev, the 19-year-old Russian hopeful 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. Or he was until the start of the third set when he jammed his foot on the court surface, rolled his ankle and fell over backwards in obvious pain.
Asking for the trainer to be ready to treat him at the next change of ends, he got gingerly to his feet and then went back to battering poor little Rublev. Fortunately, the damage seemed to be minimal and, after a few minutes, Murray was nipping about the court as if nothing had happened. And after swathing his ankle in ice packs after the match, the top seed did not seem too concerned.
“I don’t know how bad it is,” Murray said. “Just normally if it’s something like severe, a serious ankle injury, you can’t put weight on your foot. Ankles, you normally feel a bit worse 20 or 30 minutes after you stop moving around on them.
“It’s just a little bit stiff just now. It’s okay. I don’t think I’ve done too much damage. I’ll see how it feels when I get up in the morning. It can sometimes swell overnight. Just have to wait and see in the morning.”
Other than that, Murray was pleased with his night’s work. Rublev is still learning his trade at this level and even if he likes to go for his shots, he did not have the wherewithal to trouble the world No 1. And given that Murray was playing far better than he had two days previously, he never stood a chance.
“I did pretty good tonight,” Murray said. “It was better than the first match. I was hitting the ball a bit cleaner. I was hitting through the court more. More winners. I was able to get myself up to net more. I served way better, too. That helps you and allows you to dictate more points. My second serve was harder than the other day. Most things were better tonight. But still think I can improve.”
The prospect of Querrey tomorrow should not give Murray a sleepless night. He has beaten the big American in six of their seven meetings and he always enjoys taking on the tall men with the thundering serves. That said, it was Querrey who upended Novak Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon last year so he knows he needs to be on his guard.
“I haven’t played him for quite a while,” Murray said. “He’s obviously a dangerous player. Big serve. Goes for it. Obviously had a big win a couple slams ago against Novak in the third round. I’m aware of that, and I’ll be ready.”
Querrey, too, will be ready. His win over Djokovic gave him confidence but his record against Murray has taken some of the shine off that inner belief. He did beat the Scot once but that was five years ago and he has taken a few pummellings from the world No 1 since then. Apart from that sole victory, Querrey has only taken one set from the Scot in 11 years of trying and not even his 7-6, 6-0, 6-1 thrashing of Alex De Minaur from Australia yesterday helped with that sinking feeling as he approaches tomorrow’s match. “Beating Novak lets myself know that I can do it,” he said. “It is going to be tough.
“Whether he is No 1 or No 2, it doesn’t really make a difference. He is Andy Murray, he has got an unbelievable record, he is on top of his game right now so that is going to be tough. I am going to have to play like I did in the second and third sets today the entire match in order to have a shot there.
“I have one win over Murray in 2010 in a final in LA. I have got a handful of losses to him. I feel like if I can play big and have a high first-serve percentage and my forehand is dropping in and I am aggressive, I feel I can be a pain to play for anyone.”
But provided Murray’s game can keep improving and his ankle can stop throbbing, Querrey ought not to give the world No 1 too much discomfort.