Andy Murray’s US Open preparations were cut short on Monday as he suffered an opening round exit in Cincinnati to Frenchman Lucas Pouille but the Brit remains positive as he looks ahead to his first Grand Slam in over a year.
Just seven matches into his comeback from hip surgery, Murray rued a poor first-set performance in his 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 loss against Pouille.
“Today’s start of the match was not good at all. It was a pretty bad first set, and then after that, got a little bit better. Managed to hang in a little bit in the second set. I lost the first service game. I was 40-15 up and was quite a long game, that one. And then had a few little chances on his serve as the set went on but wasn’t able to take them,” explained Murray, who had never a lost a set to Pouille in any of their four previous meetings.
“I physically felt okay. It’s quick conditions here. It’s pretty fast. Obviously when I played Washington, slightly slower, also played a couple of matches in the evening there, was quite slow, whereas here obviously quite lively. And I feel like he was a little bit sharper than me out there. I maybe wasn’t reacting as quickly to some shots I would have liked.”
Murray has won just four matches since his return to action in June and is still in the early stages of his comeback.
The 31-year-old, now ranked 375 in the world, is getting ready to compete in his first major since Wimbledon last year and is still unsure how his body will react to best-of-five play.
“I kind of need to see once I’m in that position. I have played, four three-set matches and a couple long ones in Washington. Although I didn’t feel great, I managed to get through them,” said Murray, who reached the quarter-finals in DC before deciding to withdraw from the tournament to take care of his body.
“Hopefully with another couple of weeks and training, and I’m still quite early in this process, I think that’s the seventh match I have played, so hopefully each week will feel better and I can keep working on things.”
Murray spent five days off the tennis court after Washington to focus on rehab and fitness work and admits the stop-and-start is currently affecting his consistency.
He isn’t too discouraged by the three losses he has suffered so far this season, acknowledging they came against quality opponents.
“It has been hard. And also some of the matches that I lost, as well, like today, although it wasn’t the best tennis match – it didn’t feel like I played a good first set at all – I only lost four more points in the match than him. It was tight,” said Murray of his performance against Pouille.
“He’s a top-20 player. I lost against Nick [Kyrgios in Queens] , and that was another really close match, as well. So although, obviously I would have liked the results to have been a bit better, matches and the guys I have lost against have been three top-20 players and wasn’t far off winning two of those matches. So there has been some positives there.
“And if I can improve by kind of 10, 15 per cent, you turn a lot of those matches around, as well. So I think also as the year goes on, maybe some of the events I play are maybe not as strong maybe later in the year, so draws can be a little bit different. But, yeah, you need to try and string more matches together. But it’s tricky in these events. If you’re not seeded, you play top, top quality players early on.”
Meanwhile, another player on the comeback trail from surgery, Stan Wawrinka, claimed a confidence-boosting 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman in the Cincinnati first round on Monday.
Never gets old… Another breathtaking backhand from Stan the Man.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 13, 2018
The Swiss three-time Grand Slam champion, who had double-knee surgery a year ago, won back-to-back matches for the first time since February last week in Toronto en route to the last-16, where he fell in two close sets to Rafael Nadal.
He is 9-12 win-loss this season and next faces Kei Nishikori in round two in Mason, Ohio.
“Those are the kind of matches that I’m looking for. It’s important for my confidence. It’s important for my game. I think to beat a player like Diego, it’s not only important for confidence but it show that I’m playing well, I’m moving well. He’s in the top-20 in the world, so it’s a big win already,” said Wawrinka of his triumph over Schwartzman.
“I do trust my body. Now I need to trust my mind, also. I need to get used to those match, tough match, get used to those moments where you need to not think too much about what’s happening but just play your game.”
Wawrinka added: “My body is, where it is right now, is I think really strong, really good, but still some up-and-downs. Still there is a lot of things that I don’t know how it will react when I’m going to play a five-set match, when I’m going to win hopefully a five-set match back-to-back, things like that, if I start to win more matches. For sure I need to get used to again to push my body to the limit, winning match after match and keep playing, keep moving my best.
“Today I was really positive, because I was feeling a little bit tired. I was feeling a little bit heavy legs, but I still find a way to win. I still find a way to move better. And I know that by pushing myself I will get where I want to be.”
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