Andy Murray found good form to battle past 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev on Monday in three sets to reach the third round of the Western & Southern Open. But did the former World No. 1 expect to find such a level in the first tournament since the ATP Tour was suspended due to COVID-19?
“If you watched my practice sets and stuff and the build-up to the tournament, you would have said, ‘No’. I was getting belted by everyone. That had also been the case when I had been playing practice matches and practice sets back home. Couldn’t win one,” Murray said, cracking a smile. “But practice doesn’t really matter. It’s what obviously you do on the match court.”
Murray doesn’t shy away from showing his frustration when he makes mistakes on court, like when the 33-year-old let slip a break advantage in the third said against Zverev. But the wild card said that doesn’t reflect his self-belief during those tough moments.
“Sometimes I think outwardly if you looked at me, if you’re watching me on the court and you’re watching from the stands, you might think that I get really down on myself and that I’m very negative,” Murray said. “Outwardly I definitely am. But I think inside me I have a very, very strong self-belief and know that I can win matches like that. Although it doesn’t always appear that way when you’re watching me on the court, I always believe, even when outwardly it seems like I might be flagging or being negative.”
It’s still only a year and a half since Murray underwent his second hip surgery. He was able to hang in there physically with 23-year-old Zverev to pull out the two-hour, 31-minute battle.
“I was moving pretty well at the end of the match. Definitely had some lulls in there, like drop-offs in intensity, a bit of energy at times. It was ridiculously hot at the beginning of the match, unbelievably hot and humid,” Murray said. “I think I would have gotten through a five-setter… it would have been tough, for sure.”
This will also serve as a confidence-builder for Murray. Instead of walking off the court disappointed following a tough loss, he departed Grandstand after proving to himself that physically and mentally he could compete against the No. 7 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
“Obviously it was a big one to get through,” Murray said. “If I had lost the match from being 4-1 up in the third, having opportunities and the way that I played to go down from 4-1 to 4-5 was obviously not very good. Made some bad mistakes. Stopped moving my feet. Probably a bit of nerves in there, a bit of fatigue. Just a bit of rustiness, as well, I think from not playing and having to close matches out against top players for a long time.
“It would have been a tough one to lose. I was satisfied obviously to get through it, get a win against a top player after having not played for such a long time.”
Zverev was also impressed with Murray’s level. It was the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting since the 2016 Australian Open, when the German was only 18.
“It’s pretty good,” Zverev said of Murray’s level. “I was very surprised at how well he’s moving. He’s moving quite fine, quite normally.
“It was a scratchy match. I think after six months off, it’s not easy. And he played a three-setter [in the first round], which I think helped him a little bit. Credit to him. He fought to the end and he deserves to win.”