Andy Murray won his opening match here on his first day at the Hopman Cup, but the most important part of the 27-year-old Scot’s preparations for the Australian Open was probably his afternoon practice session.
As the temperature peaked at a scorching 44.4C on Perth’s hottest January day for 24 years, Murray worked for an hour on an outside practice court before entering the Perth Arena for his match against Benoît Paire, which he won 6-2, 7-5.
Under the watchful eye of his coach, Amélie Mauresmo, Murray traded some big blows with a young Australian, Ben Mitchell, who looked much the worse for wear at the end of their session. In similar conditions at the Australian Open, which begins in 13 days’ time, play will be stopped on outside courts and the retractable roofs closed in the main stadiums.
44.5 degrees here in Perth today..sounds hot but I'm used to it though having grown up in Dunblane where January conditions are very similar— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) January 5, 2015
“The air is so hot that even when you’re in the shade you don’t feel like you’re cooling down much,” Murray said. “That is one of the most challenging things when you’re playing in Australia, especially in the day sessions on the big courts, where there is no shade on the court at all. Your throat gets very dry. The air is extremely dry. It’s tough to concentrate when it’s like that.”
Until late afternoon here the matches in the main arena were played under a closed roof, which was partly opened in time for Murray’s match at 5.30pm. The Scot’s sweat-soaked shirt at the end showed that the conditions were still testing, though the heat was nowhere near as oppressive as it had been earlier.
“I would like to have played outdoors,” Murray admitted. “The more we can play outside in those conditions the better. If you want to do well in the Australian Open you normally have to play two or three matches during the day, so I like to play outside as much as I can.”
Murray quickly took charge against Paire, breaking serve in the third game after some punishing returns. A second break enabled the Scot to take the opening set in just 28 minutes. Paire, playing his first match since knee surgery four months ago, made more of a contest of it in the second set, but after recovering an early break the Frenchman dropped served at 5-5, after which Murray served out for victory.
Despite having arrived from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi less than 24 hours earlier, Murray looked refreshed. “I’ve only actually been awake for four hours in the last two days,” he said. “I slept for nine out of the 10 hours on the flight here, I was awake for about three hours after we landed and then I slept until 10 this morning.”
His only concern is a sore left shoulder, which had also troubled him in Abu Dhabi. An ultrasound scan there did not reveal any damage, but Murray felt more discomfort here.
“If it was my right shoulder it would probably be quite hard for me to play,” he said. “I don’t feel it on my groundstrokes as much, but I feel it when I’m serving. Maybe it was playing a match after having a break or maybe I just got it in the wrong position and tweaked something a little bit. But I should be fine.”
Murray’s mother, Judy, is here, but the world No 6 said that Kim Sears, his fiancée, was back home. “She is doing a recce of our wedding venue today with her mum,” Murray said, though he refused to reveal either the date or the place for their big day.
After Heather Watson had been outgunned 6-2, 6-2 by Alizé Cornet, Murray joined his fellow Briton for a deciding mixed doubles against the French pair, which they won 6-4, 2-6, 10-8. “Heather came out with some super shots in the super tie-break,” Murray said.
Watson was named yesterday alongside Johanna Konta, Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith in Britain’s Fed Cup team for next month’s Europe/Africa Zone Group One competition in Budapest. Laura Robson is not expected to return to action until next month following wrist surgery.
Rafael Nadal, who is competing in Doha this week, revealed yesterday that he is to play this year with one of Babolat’s “connected” rackets, which have sensors in the handles that record information like the number and range of shots struck, power and spin. By analysing the data a picture can be built up assessing the efficiency of a player’s game.