Andy Murray admits that he will only find out the state of his injured right elbow when he steps onto the clay of the Monte Carlo Masters this week and fires his first serve.
The world number one begins play in the second round on Tuesday or Wednesday after a bye, against either Tommy Robredo or Gilles Muller, as he bids to regain full fitness after the injury that forced him out of Miami last month.
“I was not optimistic after playing Roger (Federer) in Zurich (exhibition last week), my serve felt much slower than normal,” the Scot said on Sunday. “But every day I was building up. Often the elbow can get sore if I’ve not served for a week or 10 days. But each day started to get better.
“That’s what we had been hoping for. I had to take two or two and a half weeks off for it so I don’t know which it was, the lack of serving or the injury.”
The 29-year-old said that Monte Carlo will be a good test of his fitness.
“I would not be playing if I felt I was taking a risk. For the last two days I’ve been serving normally,” he added. “By the time of my match I will have had five days of serving at the right speed.”
Murray, who has endured a mixed start to 2017 after soaring to the top of the world rankings in November, said that his elbow problem might have stemmed from the big push he made to reach the top of the rankings.
“But I feel fine now, even if the start of the year was a bit tough. I’ve been lucky with injuries,” he said. “I have a lot of big events coming on and I’m looking forward to them. My clay expectations are very high.”
Murray has amassed an impressive 35-4 win-loss record on clay over the past two seasons. The Brit is defending 3,160 on the red dirt over the next seven weeks, having reached the Monte Carlo semis, Madrid final, won Rome and made the Roland Garros final last year.
Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova claimed her maiden WTA title in Biel with a 6-4, 7-6 (6) success over Anett Kontaveit in the final on Sunday.
The 17-year-old world No233 took out tournament top seed Barbora Strycova in the semi-finals, and is the latest left-handed talent to emerge from the Czech Republic, following in the footsteps of the likes of Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova.
She will move up more than 110 spots when the new rankings are released on Monday.
Here are six things to know about Vondrousova’s breakthrough triumph…
1- At the age of 17 years, 293 days, Marketa Vondrousova is the youngest WTA title winner since 2015 Nottingham, when Ana Konjuh won the title at 17 years, 169 days.
2- Vondrousova is the youngest Czech player to reach a WTA singles final since Nicole Vaidisova won the title at 2006 Strasbourg at 17 years, 34 days old.
3- With a ranking of No233, Vondrousova is the lowest ranked player to reach a final since Justine Henin was a runner-up at the 2010 Australian Open final without a ranking. She is the lowest-ranked player to win a title in 2017. Ashleigh Barty’s Kuala Lumpur title run as the world No158 is next in line.
4- Vondrousova’s win over No18 Barbora Strycova in the semi-finals in Biel, made her the youngest player to post a top-20 win since CiCi Bellis defeated a 13-ranked Dominika Cibulkova at the 2014 US Open. (Bellis was 15 years, 124 days.)
5- Vondrousova is the seventh first-time WTA title winner this season joining Katerina Siniakova (Shenzhen), Lauren Davis (Auckland), Elise Mertens (Hobart), Kristina Mladenovic (St Petersburg), Ashleigh Barty (Kuala Lumpur) and Daria Kasatkina (Charleston).
6- Vondrousova is the third qualifier to win a singles title in 2017, after Mertens (Hobart) and Barty (Kuala Lumpur).
*Stats via WTA
The first clay Masters 1000 tournament of the season kicks off on Sunday in Monte Carlo with Rafael Nadal chasing history, Andy Murray the top seed there for the first time and some young guns looking to break through.
Here’s everything you need to know about this week’s edition of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters…