Andy Murray may have been off the court for six weeks but he has not forgotten how to win. In his first tournament back since taking time out to nurse an injury to his left wrist, the 22-year-old Scot yesterday won the Valencia Open with an emphatic 6-3, 6-2 victory over Mikhail Youzhny. It was the 14th title of Murray's career and his sixth of the year, more than any other player on the men's tour.
Murray is often at his best after a rest – this was the ninth title he has won in such circumstances – and his performances over the last week establish him as one of the favourites for the last two big events of the season. The Scot heads today for Paris where he will play in this week's final Masters Series tournament of the year, after which he will return to London for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which begin at the O2 Arena in 13 days' time.
Youzhny, the world No 23, provided only limited resistance, but that was largely down to Murray's excellence. The Scot's game, from his speed around the court to the quality of his passing shots, was in fine shape. Although he occasionally looked jaded – he admitted afterwards that his back and groin were hurting in his fifth match of the week – Murray always had too much for Youzhny and won in just 68 minutes.
The writing was on the wall for the Russian after he dropped his serve to love at 1-2. Murray broke again and could even afford a loose service game of his own before serving out for the set. The Scot, who dropped only three points on his first serve in the match, raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set and secured victory with an ace.
"I expected a difficult match as he has been playing well recently, but I served well and played smart and I'm happy to have won in two sets," Murray afterwards. "My body is hurting, but the whole week was great as I haven't played in a long time."
Murray has a first-round bye in Paris. His first opponent will be James Blake who pulled down the curtain on Fabrice Santoro's career last night with a 6-4, 6-3 victory. Murray is seeded to play Radek Stepanek in the third round, Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals and Roger Federer in the semis. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are in the other half of the draw.
Like Murray, Federer was also playing yesterday in his first tournament since the US Open but the world No 1 did not enjoy a happy finish. Attempting to win the Swiss indoor title in his home city of Basel for the fourth year in succession, Federer was beaten 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 by Djokovic in the final.
*Italy beat the United States in Reggio Calabria yesterday to win the Fed Cup when Flavia Pennetta's straight-sets win over Melanie Oudin gave the hosts an unassailable 3-0 lead.