Murray feels a little better after beating Berrer

 

Dubai

As Andy Murray said on the eve of this tournament, some people like Dubai and some do not. Murray says he enjoys visiting the emirate's sights, but yesterday the 24-year-old Scot struggled once again at the Dubai Duty Free Championships. Having been unwell on two of his previous appearances, Murray again felt under the weather but he gritted his teeth to close out a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 first-round victory over Germany's Michael Berrer.

There were times when the world No 4's negative body language was like the Murray of old rather than the highly focused player we saw at last month's Australian Open, but he explained afterwards that he had felt sick, particularly in the early stages. Murray, playing his first match since Melbourne, thought it might have been because he had drunk too much before the match. After limiting his intake of fluids at the changeovers, he said he felt much better by the end.

For the second time in the last nine months, nevertheless, Murray had reason to be grateful that Berrer was on the other side of the net. In the third round of last year's French Open the Scot suffered a nasty injury to his ankle early in the second set but beat the 31-year-old comfortably. Berrer said at the time that he had felt sorry for Murray and should have shown less mercy.

The world No 116 had his chances again yesterday but once more failed to finish off a below-par Murray. At 6ft 4in and nearly 16st, Berrer looks more like a lock forward than a tennis player, but he is a gentle giant.

"He's one of the nicest guys on the tour," Murray said. "Sometimes you need more of a ruthless streak."

Murray ought to enjoy playing here – the conditions, with the balls flying through the dry air off a fast hard court, are to his liking – but he has never gone beyond the quarter-finals. "Most of the years I've come here I've never felt that well," he said.

Three years ago the Scot had to pull out after the second round because of food poisoning and was so unwell that he was unable to play in a Davis Cup tie against Ukraine the following week. At the time there were fears that he had glandular fever.

Murray played his best tennis yesterday in the first set and a half, when he was feeling at his worst. Despite being broken in the opening game, the Scot was soon leading 4-2 and served out for the first set in 38 minutes. When he broke to lead 3-2 in the second, having dropped one point in his previous four service games, he seemed to be coasting, but Berrer broke twice to level.

There were four successive breaks of serve at the start of the decider. With Murray looking worn out after some of the longer points and Berrer attacking purposefully, there were times when the Scot looked on the brink. However, he showed typical determination to see out the win.

Murray, who last week invited Berrer to play doubles with him here, said: "I think he's better than maybe he thinks he is. A lot of times when I've spoken to him in practice he'll kind of apologise for something. He's a very, very good player. He's been in the top 50 in the world and he likes the quick conditions."

Switzerland's Marco Chiudinelli, who sprang a surprise by beating Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, will be Murray's next opponent. Chiudinelli is probably best known for being one of Roger Federer's closest friends, having been one of 39 guests at the former world No 1's wedding three years ago. Currently No 185 in the world, he has never been in the top 50 and has never won a title on the main tour.

Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, is playing in a Champions Tour event in Florida this week – he was due to meet Carlos Moya in last night's final ("I don't have high hopes for him," Murray said) – but the two men have been in regular contact.

"I'll let him know that there are things I was concerned about, things I want to improve on," Murray said. "You can't look at the first match in four weeks and over-analyse it. You've just got to take it for what it is. There was some good stuff in there. There was some not so good stuff. I'll need to get better."

Federer got his tournament off to a good start, crushing France's Michael Llodra 6-0, 7-6. Llodra, who had lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the final in Marseilles 48 hours earlier, won just seven points in losing the first set in only 17 minutes.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost to Del Potro in Saturday's semi-finals in France, had similarly little time to prepare for his match against Marcos Baghdatis. Having arrived the previous evening, the Frenchman had one 30-minute practice session but still beat the Cypriot 7-6, 6-4.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick