Murray extends winning streak

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Perfect start: Andy Murray

Being the stats geek that he is, Andy Murray must be very pleased with his first singles match of the 2017 season which saw him move past Jeremy Chardy 6-0, 7-6 (2) in 81 minutes in the Qatar Open first round on Tuesday.

Landing 73 per cent of his first serves in, winning 85 per cent of the points on his first serve, hitting 18 winners against just nine unforced errors are all numbers the world No1 can be very proud of especially considering it was a season-opener and a certain level of rust was to be expected.

The victory took the winning streak he carried over from last year to 25 and he’ll be looking to extend it when he takes on Austrian Gerald Melzer in the second round on Wednesday.

To get an idea of how thorough Murray is when it comes to statistics, here’s what the Brit said about the progress he made on his second serve last season.

“Last year the improvements I made in the second serve, I won like 3 per cent more points on my second serve. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but over the course of a year it’s a big difference,” Murray explained to reporters on Tuesday in Doha.

“I think to get to No1 you need to win like 54 per cent points of the total points you play in the year. You lose a lot of points that you play. Any percentage here or there that you can improve in your game is big. I managed to do that last year. Hopefully I can still find things to get a bit better this year. Obviously going to be tough.”

On capturing a 25th victory in a row, Murray said: “It feels a bit – I don’t know, feel like kind of starting fresh again this year. I mean, obviously I would like to try and keep the run going as long as possible.

“Does feel a little bit like starting fresh again after the offseason and having not played a match for pretty much a month or month and a half or so. But, yeah, just try and carry on from where I finished last year, which was playing some of the best tennis of my life. I learnt a lot in that run, in that period at the end of the year. So try and use that to get off to a good start this year.”

His start yesterday was certainly a good one. Murray served up a bagel in the first set in 20 minutes but then got broken in the opening game of the second.

The top seed retaliated immediately though and it was neck and neck until the tiebreak.

The two-time Doha champion aced to bring up four match points and closed out the match on his first opportunity when a Chardy volley sailed long.

“I was up 40-15 I think first game of the second. I think if I held that game I could have made the second set a bit easier for myself,” said Murray.

“He played I think very well in the second set. Every time he was behind in the service games he came up with some good points, was aggressive. From my side, I felt like I hit the ball very clean. I wasn’t mishitting many balls. Moved pretty good. You know, served well, especially in the tiebreak. For a first match it was good for sure.”

Earlier on centre court, No5 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga claimed a fifth consecutive win in Doha, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 over Andrey Kuznetsov. The Frenchman won the Qatar Open title the last time he made an appearance here five years ago and made sure his return was a victorious one.

Tsonga broke Kuznetsov in the Russian’s opening service game and consolidated for a 3-0 lead. The Frenchman chased down a dropshot then flicked over a smooth passing shot to break again in game four.

It took him 19 minutes but Kuznetsov was finally on the board, holding serve for 1-5. Tsonga won 92 per cent of the points on his first serve in that 23-minute opening set.

The momentum shifted in the second set as Kuznetsov found his game and Tsonga lost his concentration as the contest went to a decider.

The world No12 recovered in the third to advance and book a second round date with entertaining German Dustin Brown.

“I played pretty good in the first set. Then I was waiting a little bit more in the second for the good shot. In the first I went on the first shot, and in the other one, I don’t know why in the second I was waiting for something. I don’t know what,” explained Tsonga.

“In the third set I came back to like the first set and it was good. Yeah, good match. Good to win. It’s not a full match, but it’s a pretty good level I played in these two sets.”

Tsonga spent New Year’s Eve in Abu Dhabi and attended the Coldplay concert before flying to Doha to kick off his 2017 season. Asked if he’s the kind of guy who makes New Year resolutions, the 31-year-old said: “I would say I’m the guy who’s doing a resolution every day. So, yeah, I’m that kind of guy who doesn’t wait for the new year to do resolution.”

So what was the resolution of the day yesterday?

“It was to stay focused on my game today, but it was, well, not really good,” he said with a smile.

Tunisian Malek Jaziri let a second-set break slip away as he fell 6-2, 7-6 (3) to No7 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

Jaziri is working with a new coach, Christophe Freyss, and is hoping he could break into the top-30 this season for the first time.

Russian up-and-comer Karen Khachanov beat local wildcard Mubarak Zayid 6-1, 6-3 under the watchful eyes of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar.

Khachanov, a 20-year-old who is one of the NextGen talents to watch, next faces Croatian ace machine Ivo Karlovic.

Tomas Berdych closed out the action on centre court on Tuesday night with a 7-6 (1), 6-2 win over Italian qualifier Alessandro Giannessi. He next faces Jiri Vesely in an all-Czech second round.

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