Andy Murray and American hard courts go together like hamburgers and fries. The 21-year-old Scot won his maiden title in San Jose, beat Roger Federer for the first time in Cincinnati, won his first Masters title at the same venue last summer and made his debut in a Grand Slam final in New York six months ago.
Even if his latest transatlantic foray ended in a 6-1, 6-2 reverse at the hands of Rafael Nadal in Sunday night's final of the Indian Wells Masters – his most emphatic defeat since losing to the Spaniard at Wimbledon last summer – Murray had every reason to be pleased with his week's work. The British No 1 had gone to California with modest expectations after being laid low by a virus but five victories, including a fourth in succession over Federer, confirmed his return to health and form.
Murray now heads for Miami, where a second successive Masters tournament offers the world No 4 a chance to overhaul Novak Djokovic, the man directly above him in the rankings. Given the form of both men this year, it is by no means a fanciful notion. If Murray were to win the tournament, Djokovic would have to reach the final to stay at No 3; should Murray finish runner-up, Djokovic would need to make the fourth round.
Both men look set to improve their rankings total over the next fortnight, given that they failed to win a match between them in Miami last year. The top four – Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray – are already well clear of the rest and will extend their lead over Nikolay Davydenko, the world No 5, who will not defend his Miami title because of injury.
The scoreline in the Indian Wells final will have done nothing to dent Murray's confidence as it was a match dominated by the blustery conditions, to which Nadal adapted much better. "It was tough," Murray said. "I haven't played in conditions as windy as that for quite a long time. Rafa dealt with it very well. He hit the ball cleaner and just seemed to get himself in better positions than I did. You don't necessarily want to be doing a whole lot of defending and running. You want to be in the best position possible to hit each ball and I wasn't. That's why he managed to dictate most of the points.
"I'll definitely get over it because I'm guessing I'm not going to play in those conditions each week. I don't feel that disappointed just now with how the week went because I wasn't expecting to do that well. I had some very good wins. I got a lot of the matches that I wasn't necessarily expecting. So going into Miami, I'm going to be better prepared than I thought."
Nadal, who agreed that Murray had been below his best, was delighted with his own form. "I played a really complete match," the world No 1 said. "I was moving very well. My legs never stopped running and that was the key. I don't know if I was a little bit more prepared than him to play in these conditions."
Bouncebackability: Murray's ins and outs
Doha: Won (bt A Roddick in final)
Australian Open (Melbourne): Fourth round (lost to Fernando Verdasco)
Rotterdam: Won (bt R Nadal in final)
Dubai: Quarter-finals (withdrew)
Indian Wells Masters: Runner-up (lost to R Nadal in final)
Men's world rankings
1 Rafael Nadal (14,990 pts)
2 Roger Federer (10,910)
3 Novak Djokovic (8,420)
4 Andy Murray (7,850)
5 Nikolay Davydenko (4,735)Reuse content