Top Seed Murray Overcomes Tricky Monte-Carlo Opener
World No. 1 Andy Murray made a welcome return to the ATP World Tour on Wednesday afternoon when he improved to 6-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Gilles Muller in a hard-fought 7-5, 7-5 victory for a place in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters third round.
Murray, a three-time semi-finalist at the tournament, had not played since 12 March due to a right elbow injury and is bidding to capture his 15th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title this week. He will now challenge No. 15 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who booked his place in the third round for the first time with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over qualifier Carlos Berlocq in 80 minutes.
“I definitely played better as the match went on,” said Murray, who admitted his right elbow was a little sore. “Obviously, the first service game was not ideal. But when you are coming back from not really serving for a few weeks, it's, I think, normal. Maybe [my] technique changed a little bit. You get into the match, and it's tricky.
“I was happy with how I hit the ball. I hit the ball clean from the back. I was dictating a lot of points once I got into the rallies. It was just sometimes the first couple of shots, the serve or the return, could have been a little bit better.”
Muller started strongly against his good friend, hitting his spots on serve and ending points effectively at the net. He came within one point of a 3-0 lead, but for a mis-timed backhand drop shot that would have left Murray flat-footed.
Muller came to lead 5-3 and held two set point opportunities on Murray’s serve in the 10th game. Murray, who is coached by Muller’s former trainer Jamie Delgado, eventually found his range in his first match for five weeks, breaking serve for a second time to seal the 58-minute set.
Both players exchanged service breaks at the start of the second set and opportunities arose in the third and fourth games, as Murray and Muller – familiar with each other’s games after years of practice sessions – tried to find an opening. Muller got out of trouble at 4-5, 0/30, with two solid serves and a couple of unforced errors from Murray, much to the Scot’s frustration.
But another chance was soon to follow in their first meeting since the 2015 Rogers Cup in Montreal. With Muller serving at 5-6, 30-all, Murray produced a fine backhand cross-court flicked winner, then watched his Luxembourg opponent fire a wild forehand long on match point.
“I've done a decent amount of training,” said Murray. “Obviously, playing matches is the biggest test. Apart from serving today and a few returns, I moved pretty good. I played some smart shots. I was quite happy with how I hit the ball. I was timing it very clean during the points. My body felt pretty good.”
Elsewhere, fifth seed Marin Cilic avenged his recent Miami loss to Jeremy Chardy, a wild card entry this week, by winning 25 of his 27 first service points and hitting nine aces for a 6-3, 6-0 win in 66 minutes.
The 2015 quarter-finalist now takes on ninth seed and 2015 runner-up Tomas Berdych, who was also solid on serve, to record his 20th match win at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament in beating the oldest player in the draw, 39-year-old former World No. 2 Tommy Haas, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and 54 minutes.