Andy Murray has been insisting that he has not been concerned by his lack of victories on clay this season and the Scot showed at the Madrid Masters last night that there is little wrong with his current form. Murray recorded only his second win of the clay-court season when he beat Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-3. He now plays Romania's Victor Hanescu in the third round.
Murray, whose only previous victory on clay this year had been against Andreas Seppi in Rome a fortnight ago, played with great assurance. It was arguably the world No 4's best performance since the Australian Open more than three months ago and will give him encouragement with the French Open only 10 days away.
Hitting his ground strokes with authority and serving with growing confidence, Murray was much too good for Chela, who won only one point in the first three games. Murray's only blip in the first set came when he dropped serve at 3-0, but he was soon back in control.
When Chela served at 3-5 Murray took his third set point with a splendid forehand cross-court winner. Chela broke at the start of the second set, but Murray responded immediately and was soon on his way to victory.
The Scot thought he played better than he had in Rome and was pleased with his regular flow of winners, saying he had been helped by the ball flying quickly through the air in one of Europe's highest capital cities. "I thought it was good, the best I've hit the ball in a long time," Murray told Sky Sports. "I didn't serve that well in the first set, but in the second I started to serve a lot better."
He added: "I want to get back to feeling good on the court, feeling comfortable, going for my shots and moving like I did today. If I do that I'll start to go deep into tournaments again."
On a day when Andy Roddick withdrew from the event because of illness, Rafael Nadal opened his campaign by beating the Ukrainian qualifier Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jnr 6-4, 6-3. However, Nadal did not have everything his own way as Dolgopolov hit some big ground strokes and stunning drop shots.
Serena Williams went out in the third round of the women's tournament when she lost 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Nadia Petrova. The Russian, striking the ball with great power, took command in the second set and won in emphatic style.
Nevertheless there were reasons for a Williams family celebration thanks to sister Venus beating Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. The result ensured that she would climb two places next week to No 2 in the world rankings list behind Serena. It will be the first time for seven years that the sisters have filled the top two places in the rankings.
The first match at the "Magic Box" yesterday featured a contest between two other former world No 1s. The Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic both had difficult years in 2009, but there have been signs recently that they are returning to form. Jankovic in particular has enjoyed an upturn in her fortunes, climbing back to No 4 in the rankings, and duly won their second-round contest 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.