THERE is a lot to be said for being at home. As Andy Murray settles into his Miami apartment and arranges his next practice sessions with coach Ivan Lendl, he can relax and plan his challenge for the Sony Open, the second Masters event of the year, which begins in the south Florida city on Wednesday.
Murray may not have played well in Indian Wells last week but he certainly played a lot better than he had there in the past couple of seasons. The Scot had not won a match in the Californian desert since 2010, so to reach the quarter-finals, however scrappily, was not a bad effort.
And, as Lendl kept reminding him in daily telephone conversations, Murray could not expect to play his best after taking a six-week break following the Australian Open final.
But, in Miami, Murray knows the courts, he knows the conditions and he will have Lendl at his side.
Last year Murray reached the final of the tournament but never felt like he hit top gear. Two of his opponents pulled out in the early rounds and, in the final itself, he could not get a toehold in the match against Novak Djokovic.
But, 12 months on, Murray is feeling fit as a flea and is mentally refreshed after his break. With a few matches under his belt last week, he cannot wait to get started.
He said: “I was not feeling great going into Miami last year. We had some weird walkovers and stuff, which helped, and I had a decent tournament but I hope that this year I will play better tennis.
“I feel more comfortable on the court. Regardless of how you do sometimes, so long as you get matches, you’re going to feel better and I got six matches last week, which is way more than I’ve had in the last few years in Indian Wells.
“That should help going into Miami, especially physically. It doesn’t matter how much training you do, when you play matches it’s different movements, you can’t really replicate it so that’s what I needed.”
Murray has always been a perfectionist and his own harshest critic. So, when he fluffed and fumbled his way through the rounds in California, Lendl had to talk some sense into him. Old Stone Face may look fierce but he knows exactly what Murray goes through when the results are not going according to plan – and he is the first to tell him that it really doesn’t matter.
To have Lendl back alongside him this week will, Murray thinks, make a huge difference.
“Having him around helps everyone because of his experience, his understanding of the game and these sort of situations,” Murray said. “When I spoke to him after my last match and I wasn’t happy with the way I played, he’s very much ‘don’t worry about it, you can’t expect to play perfect after taking a break like that’.
“He also knows the conditions in Indian Wells are trickier for some guys than others. Ivan didn’t like the desert, in terms of the way the court played and how fast the balls were. I need to find a way to play better in these conditions, but having him around can help with that because he understands.”
What Murray’s loss to Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open showed was that he is only a match or two away from his game clicking into place.
As the No 3 seed, Murray has a first round bye in Miami and a bit of hard graft on the practice courts should hone his timing by the time he plays his opening match at the weekend.
“I would hope by Miami I should be playing much better than I did last week,” he said. “I obviously know the conditions well there, I practice there regularly, I’m comfortable in Miami.
“I feel like, when I play on those courts, I can open up a bit more, play aggressive and time the ball better so I would hope that, if I can get through a round or two in Miami, I’ll start to play better and better.”