Andy Murray is on the mend. It is official. He may not yet be the same Murray who was all-conquering in the second half of last year, but he is making strides towards getting back to his best.
Safely through to the third round of the French Open after three-and-a-half hours of graft to get past Martin Klizan 6-7, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 yesterday, he feels physically fine and mentally ready for what is to come.
“I’m playing way better than I was two weeks ago,” he said, “and today’s match will have done me a lot of good, because physically I pulled up well and felt good, so I will gain a lot of confidence from that. And also I hit a lot of balls out there today, more than the first-round match.
“It seems like everyone thinks I didn’t play particularly well today, but there was some good stuff against a tough opponent. It’s not easy to play against someone like him. So hopefully I will keep improving in the next one.”
The match stats did suggest that there is room for improvement – his first serve was registering a meagre 45 per cent accuracy in the fourth set – but the fact that he fought his way through the physical battles and thought his way through the tactical ones was a huge step forward. In his last two clay court events, he faded away against opponents he should have beaten, unable to work out what to do next.
“I changed my return position in the second,” he said. “I stepped way back on the second-serve return and was getting good height and depth on that shot and was able to dictate more of the points there.
“In the first set I wasn’t doing that. I was stepping in and not getting a good hit on the returns. So that was another positive thing for me today, which I maybe hadn’t been doing in Rome and Madrid, was when I was in a tough situation I found the solution, made some changes, and it worked out.”
After all the niggling illnesses he has suffered since the start of the year and the elbow injury that only really cleared up a couple of weeks ago, Murray is looking bright eyed and eager. He will need to be against Juan Martin del Potro tomorrow but Murray is sounding more confident than he has in months.
“He is, in my opinion, one of the best players in the world when he’s fit and healthy,” Murray said. “But, yeah, I definitely feel like I’m capable of winning that match.”