Murray back with a bang but Roddick lies in wait

 

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray wasted no time yesterday in brushing aside any idea that the muscle problem that forced his withdrawal from last week's tournament in Basel might prompt an end to his winning run. The world No 3, playing his first match for more than three weeks, was leading Jérémy Chardy 4-0 just 10 minutes into his opening contest here at the Paris Masters and within another 70 minutes had secured an emphatic 6-2, 6-4 victory. It was his 16th win in a row following his title triumphs in Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai and his 26th in his last 27 matches.

There is no greater boost to confidence than winning matches and during the best run of his career Murray has been playing with an assurance and authority that many opponents find hard to handle. Chardy is a hit-and-miss type, but there were not too many hits and plenty of misses as the 24-year-old Frenchman made 35 unforced errors to the Scot's nine.

Murray has had plenty of family here to support him this week – his mother, his brother Jamie and wife, his grandmother, an aunt and uncle and two cousins – but the Palais Omnisports was barely a quarter full for the lunchtime start. Parisians have other things on their mind at that time of the day.

In the first set Murray dropped just two points on his serve. Chardy improved in the second, but did not force one break point. The only break came when he double-faulted at 15-40 in the fifth game. It was Murray's 34th win in his last 35 matches against French opponents. "It was a decent start," Murray said. "After taking a break, things feel a little bit different. You're not quite in the rhythm you were a few weeks ago. Hopefully I can build on [the] win. Maybe if I get through a couple of rounds, I'll feel that momentum, but right now it's just the case of getting used to being back on the court again."

Having overtaken Roger Federer in the rankings, Murray can finish the year in the world's top three for the first time. He could ensure that with a good run this week. Indeed if he were to win here and at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, which begin in 11 days' time, he could even overtake the world No 2, Rafael Nadal, who has chosen not to play in the French capital.

Murray, who lost his second-round doubles match with Ross Hutchins to the Austrians Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya, next plays Andy Roddick, who has lost three of their last four meetings and is now world No 15. Until this March the 29-year-old American had spent all but eight weeks since October 2002 ranked in the world's top 10, but he has had an indifferent and injury-troubled year. "It's definitely a big test," Roddick said as he looked ahead to today's third-round match. "He's playing very well right now."

Federer and Novak Djokovic both won in straight sets, against France's Adrian Mannarino and Croatia's Ivan Dodig respectively. Djokovic's participation had been in doubt after he suffered a shoulder problem in Basel. If he had not played in this week's mandatory event he would have lost his ATP bonus of $1.6m (£1m) as the year-ending world No 1, but he denied that was why he was here. "I need more matches before London," Djokovic said. "It's obvious I'm still not at the top of my game. I'm taking things slowly, step by step, knowing the form will improve each day I play."

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