There is nothing like winning matches and tournaments to lift the spirits. Andy Murray will play his seventh match in nine days when he faces US Open champion Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals of the China Open, but the Scot is relishing the challenge, despite his punishing schedule.
Murray is in the middle of a three-week run of tournaments in China. Victory in the Shenzhen Open last weekend gave him his first title for 14 months and after fulfilling his commitments here he will play in next week’s Shanghai Masters.
“I wanted to play matches and try to get back to winning events and playing in the latter stages of tournaments,” Murray said after an easy 6-2, 6-2 second-round victory over Pablo Cuevas.
“I felt I was gaining some momentum at the US Open. I felt like I was playing better. I felt like I was hitting the ball how I wanted to. I chatted with my team and we decided, ‘Let’s try and win some tournaments, let’s try and get back to the latter stages of as many events as I can between now and the end of the year’. That will set me up, hopefully, for a nice rest in the off season. Then I can build on that going forward to next year.”
The last 12 months, beginning with the back surgery which caused him to miss the latter part of 2013, have not been easy for Murray. Until last weekend he had not won a title since his 2013 Wimbledon triumph.
There have been suggestions that his struggles since his split with Ivan Lendl have been the result of not having a coach capable of making him go the extra mile, but no player has fought harder or coped with such testing conditions as the Scot has in the last week and a half. He came back from a set down in his last two matches in the intense heat and humidity of Shenzhen, where he saved five match points in the final against Tommy Robredo.
Asked to explain why he had been so emotional in the wake of his victory over the Spaniard, Murray said: “Winning tournaments isn’t easy. It was the way that win came about, as well, coming from five match points down in incredibly hard conditions. I don’t think any of the players were ever expecting those conditions. Everybody was saying, ‘I can’t believe how hot it is’. The conditions were brutal. I know how hard a tournament is to win. Finals are hard to play.
“When you look back, when you finish playing, people look at how many titles you have won. Those matches are all-important. Especially if you go into them as the favourite, as well, there’s a bit more pressure to it. But I know that winning tournaments – any tournaments – gives you confidence, that’s for sure.”
Murray, whose coach Amélie Mauresmo is missing the Asia swing, flew here by private jet on the night of the Shenzhen final, which at least gave him a day to recover before his first match on Tuesday.
The Scot still had to grit his teeth to beat former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz in straight sets, but today’s win was more decisive, Murray taking the first four games in both sets to stamp his authority.
If Murray is to go on and win the title here he might have to beat reigning Grand Slam champions in his next three matches. Cilic won in New York last month, while Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, his potential opponents in the semi-final and final, are the Wimbledon and French Open champions respectively.
Murray has a good record against Cilic. His defeat in Rotterdam in February, which came less than two months after his return from the surgery, had followed a run of six successive victories over the Croat. Nadal, continuing his comeback after a three-month break with a wrist injury, faces Martin Klizan – whom he beat in four sets at Wimbledon this year – the winner to play John Isner or Tomas Berdych, while Djokovic meets Grigor Dimitrov in a rematch of their Wimbledon semi-final.
An outstanding women’s quarter-final line-up features six Grand Slam champions. The “outsiders” are Simona Halep, the world No 2, who faces Ana Ivanovic, and Roberta Vinci, the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open doubles champion, who meets Petra Kvitova. Serena Williams takes on Samantha Stosur, while Maria Sharapova tackles Svetlana Kuznetsova in an all-Russian affair.Reuse content