The Cincinnati Masters, where the conditions can be brutally hot and humid, is not the most popular of tournaments with some players, but Andy Murray knows it is ideal preparation for the US Open. With the year’s final Grand Slam event only 11 days away the Scot is keen to get plenty of matches under his belt at a tournament he has twice won.
Murray began his 10th Cincinnati campaign in convincing fashion, beating Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-3, 6-3 on a day when a gusting wind added to the players’ difficulties. After winning the first three games in less than 10 minutes Murray rarely looked in trouble against the world No 37. In truth, he was rarely extended, but he struck the ball well and conceded only two break points, both of which he won.
Having served out for the first set, Murray quickly took charge of the second, breaking in the third game. When Sousa served at 3-5 and 15-30 he put a forehand in the net and then hit a backhand long to give Murray victory in just 71 minutes.
Murray, who lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals in Toronto last week, said: “I got the win and that’s the most important thing. The conditions here this week are very different. A lot of the guys are struggling to control the ball, so I was happy to come through. He makes a lot of balls and fights hard, so it was a tough start.”
John Isner, the big-serving American, is likely to offer Murray a stiffer test in the third round today. The world No 14, runner-up to Rafael Nadal in this tournament 12 months ago, beat Australia’s Marinko Matosevic 6-3, 7-6, hitting 15 aces in the process.
Murray would love to reach his first final for 13 months but for the moment the world No 9’s goal is simply to get as much time on court as possible.
“The conditions here are more similar to the US Open than last week, so it’s good to get matches,” he said. “I felt good last week. I played a pretty good match against Tsonga, who is obviously playing well. I maybe messed it up a little bit in the third set, so I need to make sure that when I’m ahead in matches like today I finish my opponents off and don’t give them a second look.”
James Ward, the British No 2, was unable to build on his first victory at a Masters Series tournament and was beaten by Julien Benneteau, the world No 41. Ward, who won two matches in qualifying before beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round, was defeated 6-2, 6-2 in just 64 minutes.
Grigor Dimitrov, who ended Murray’s defence of his Wimbledon title, was beaten 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 by Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz, while Tomas Berdych’s poor run continued when he was knocked out by Lu Yen-hsun. The world No 5 was beaten 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Petra Kvitova made her second successive early exit since her Wimbledon triumph when she was beaten 6-2, 7-6 by the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. Serena Williams, the top seed, beat Australia’s Sam Stosur 7-6, 7-6 in a match which did not feature any breaks of serve.