Andy Murray showing signs of return to routine of winning at European Open

Simon Briggs
Andy Murray only faced four break points on way to win - Getty Images
Andy Murray only faced four break points on way to win - Getty Images

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Andy Murray’s 6-4, 6-3 win over Pablo Cuevas on Thursday night was that it did not seem remarkable at all. More than any other match he has played since his hip problem blew up in the summer of 2017, this was a drama-free saunter through to the next round.

It is too early to say that Murray is all the way back to his best. But the most encouraging thing about this win was its routine feeling. He faced only four break points, and saved them all – two with aces. The whole occasion could have been a flashback to the days when he was a fixture in the world’s top four, and regularly squashed players without fuss.​

Scroll to continue with content

Asked if this was his most straightforward outing since he received the implant of a metal hip in January, Murray replied “In terms of matches that I have won, it would be, for sure. I hit the ball very clean from the beginning and I didn’t have too many lulls, didn’t let him have too many chances.​

“I was talking after my first match this week [the contrastingly edgy 6-4, 7-6 win over local lad Kimmer Coppejans on Tuesday] about maybe lacking that killer instinct, not being focused for the whole match. So, that was a big improvement today. I didn’t have too many moments where I let my concentration slip or my frustration get the better of me.”​

Admittedly, Uruguay’s Cuevas is not at his most comfortable on hard courts, preferring the clay that predominates in South America. But he is the world No 45 and a sturdy campaigner. On Thursday he sent down an impressive 14 aces, but he also mislaid that fizzing first serve for one game in each set – and Murray capitalised clinically by breaking both times.​

With the two top seeds – Gael Monfils and David Goffin – both going out on Thursday, Murray is now in a terrific position to push for his 46th ATP title, and the first since he won Dubai two-and-a-half years ago.​

He came into this event with concerns over his family – wife Kim is heavily pregnant, which could send him rushing home if their third child arrives early – as well as a sore right elbow that prevented him from practising his serve in the lead-up. But while anything could happen on the baby front, Murray has shaken off his physical doubts. He hit 12 aces of his own on Thursday, and his movement was the best we have seen since he was world No 1.​

<span>Pablo Cuevas was beaten in straight sets by Murray</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Pablo Cuevas was beaten in straight sets by Murray Credit: Getty Images

Asked whether he felt like he has a chance of winning the tournament, Murray replied “I think the way I played today gives me a chance of doing that, yeah. But that’s one of the things that is difficult about coming back. I will need to play four days in a row which I haven’t done yet. So if I play a two-and-a-half-hour match, will I recover well the following day?​

“It’s about having consistency in your performances as well. I think that’s something that comes with a bit of confidence, match wins, physically being a little bit stronger as well. So hopefully I can answer some of those questions this week.”​

The next man up will be Marius Copil in Friday night’s quarter-final.​

Ranked No 92, Copil is built like a second-row forward and belts down his serve with serious firepower. ​

But he has unexpected touch as well, as he demonstrated last year when he faced Murray in Washington.​

That was a peculiar night indeed. Rain delayed the start, and when Murray finally came back from dropping the first set to complete a 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 victory, the clock read 3.01am. Just to add to the unexpectedness of the whole occasion, Murray reacted to the win by dissolving into great wracking sobs on his chair. At the time, we thought he was just releasing emotion after reaching his first quarter-final in over a year, but we later learned that his tears were prompted by intense pain, as well as the realisation that the hip was showing little sign of improvement. He was forced to pull out of his next match after failing to recover.​

“That was a tough day,” Murray recalled. “I was struggling a lot then with my hip, and he was using a lot of drop shots. It was a tough match for me so I remember that one well.”​

Meanwhile, Roger Federer has confirmed that he plans to play the French Open again next year, as well as the Tokyo Olympics.

What to Read Next