Sleep is key to Andy Murray's sparkling tennis at US Open

Every new parent struggles through the exhaustion barrier, surviving on a few hours of snatched sleep at night and hanging on by their fingertips during the fraught days.

Andy Murray will face Kei Nishikori today after brushing aside Grigor Dimitrov. Picture: Getty.

But not every new parent is trying to win his fourth grand slam title or, for that matter, is trying to get those few hours of sleep in New York, the city that famously never sleeps. But Andy Murray is doing his best.

On Monday night he absolutely thrashed Grigor Dimitrov 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 with his best display of the tournament so far. And he put it all down to a good night’s sleep. While every other British tennis fan had been glued to Kyle Edmund’s attempt to dislodge Novak Djokovic on Sunday night, the Scot was dead to the world. And after that early night and a good 12 hours’ kip, Murray was refreshed and raring to go.

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He attacked Dimitrov from the start, wearing him down with some lung-bursting baseline rallies at the start and then pummelling him with thundering serves thereafter. It was like a heavyweight duffing up a lightweight. After two very ordinary matches against Marcel Granollers and Paolo Lorenzi, this was Murray at his aggressive, dominant best.

“I tried to get in bed early and I slept for 12 hours straight,” he said. “I never do that. I never sleep that long.

“I chatted to the team after the last match, because I was a little bit flat on the court. I hadn’t been sleeping great here, just didn’t feel great the last few days.

“Ivan [Lendl] and Jamie [Delgado], they said, look, you’ve got a few days left here; give it everything you’ve got. Let’s be as professional as possible, work hard in practice, and go out there and fight, give everything you’ve got in the matches. There’s a break coming soon.

“That was an important chat to have because I definitely was a little bit flat a couple of days ago and I definitely couldn’t afford to let that happen against Grigor.”

After a long but profitable summer, Murray is understandably tired. He needs to use his limited reserves of energy wisely and eke them out over the next ten days. From New York he will fly straight to Glasgow for the Davis Cup semi-final against Argentina with barely a moment to catch his breath. Only after that will he be able to take a break so it is hardly surprising that he has been feeling a little jaded.

“Sleep is the most important thing, I think,” Murray said. “Also, it’s not easy but you try not to stress about matches, thinking about matches the whole day and wasting a lot of nervous energy as well. You need to save as much as you can for the match court. But just now, it’s sleeping really. For me, I normally have no issues sleeping, but I’ve slept badly here and I felt way better after getting a proper night’s sleep.”

Whether Dimitrov was able to sleep after his dismal effort against the Scot is another matter. Now coached by Murray’s friend and former assistant coach, Dani Vallverdu, he should have been prepared for what was coming at him. But he looked lost and, by the sounds of it, Vallverdu had given him a tongue lashing after it was all over.

“The thing is I tried,” Dimitrov said plaintively. “It’s not that I didn’t try. This is what I just said to my coach right now in the locker room. I mean, I knew Andy is going to play good tennis.”

And Murray did play good tennis. He hit one ace at 141mph, his fastest ever, and his average first serve speed was 126mph – he was bruising Dimitrov with every shot. Even Murray was surprised with quite how powerful that first delivery was. “I served one ace at 145mph in San Jose but the next day they recalibrated the gun because it was completely wrong,” Murray said with a smile.

“But that is definitely the fastest serve that I’ve hit. I think that the other fastest serve was here at the US Open around 138mph maybe, but I’ve never hit over 140.

“I think that was lucky – I only did it once, I don’t expect to do it again.”

But he does expect Kei Nishikori to be a far tougher opponent in the quarter-finals today. He has beaten the Japanese seven times in eight previous meetings, most recently in the Olympic semi-final, but while he is the favourite going into the match, Nishikori can never be taken lightly.

“I have played well against him in the past,” Murray said. “But he likes these conditions. He plays well in New York. He’s made his only slam final here. He beat Novak [Djokovic] here. He’s obviously playing pretty well this summer. He played some good stuff at the Olympics and won the bronze.

“I played a really good match against him when we played a few weeks ago. I’m aware I’ll need to do that again if I want to beat him because he’s one of the best in the world, plays extremely well on hard court.”

Forget the practice, ignore the training – all Murray needs is a big “Do Not Disturb” sign to pin to his hotel room door and his US Open challenge should stay on track.