If Andy Murray feels any disappointment at not achieving his autumn goal of a place in the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, his second-round match today here in the Paris Masters provides a timely reminder of his outstanding progress this year.
His opponent is Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela, who was leading 6-3, 3-0 yesterday against Paradorn Srichaphan when the Thai retired because of pain from an ear infection. In January of this year Chela, the world No 33, conceded only seven games on his way to beating Murray in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The British No 1 had seemed ill at ease with himself in that match, shouting out "This isn't me!" in apparent frustration at his coach Mark Petchey's reported advice to play a more attacking game. Murray was then the world No 62, but his improvement under Brad Gilbert, who succeeded Petchey in the summer, is reflected in his current ranking at 19.
"Since Australia he's improved a lot and this is going to be a completely different match," Chela said. "He's won a lot of matches and he's a better player. He's a very complete player now."
Murray, who is playing down his own chances of success here as he recovers from a throat infection, is already thinking ahead to the next Australian Open in two months' time. While his winter training camp in America with Gilbert is unlikely to produce any major changes to his game, we can expect a new-look Murray the next time he appears on court. He is conducting a poll on his website (www.andymurray.com) to decide what hairstyle he should wear when he makes his first visit to a hairdresser for nearly 18 months.
"I wanted to do something to get my fans involved in my website," Murray said. "I genuinely haven't been to a proper hairdresser since around Wimbledon last year. I've cut it a few times myself and my girlfriend has cut it as well."
The options are "short at the back, messy on top", "grade four all over", "trimmed and thinned but keep it longish" and "cut it myself (again)". His mother, Judy, and Gilbert prefer option two, but Murray said: "I think I would prefer to grow my hair long, but I'm not really that bothered. I don't really take care of my hair. I never brush it when I get up in the morning, and I never put any products in it. I do wash it, though."