Better, much better. Andy Murray knows that it was only a second-round match against the world No 47, but the Scot will be hoping that his 6-2, 6-4 victory here last night over Andreas Seppi in the Rome Masters was a sign that his recent troubles are over.
Murray arrived at one of his least productive tournaments — he had won one match in four previous visits to the Foro Italico – on the back of his worst run since 2006, but ended a sequence of three successive defeats in emphatic fashion. Having looked badly out of sorts in winning only three games against Philipp Kohlschreiber in Monte Carlo a fortnight ago, he was much more like his old self here.
Tournament organisers were no doubt hoping that a day which had begun with the official opening of their splendid new centre court, and continued with an extraordinary match in which Roger Federer was beaten by Ernests Gulbis, would end with appropriate celebrations for the Italian No 1. Seppi, however, was never in the match from the moment Murray broke serve in the opening game.
The 10,500-capacity stadium, which had been nearly full to see Federer, has steep sides and looks capable of matching the former show court for atmosphere. However, it was less than a quarter full during a cool and damp evening that probably left the Scot feeling more at home than the Italian.
Everything about Murray's game was an improvement on his recent form, but what was most telling was the consistency of his groundstrokes. Having barely been able to find the court a fortnight ago, he quickly found his rhythm here. His backhand in particular looked in fine shape as Seppi was repeatedly beaten by winners cracked confidently down the line, while 10 aces were evidence of a return to form on serve.
"It was good," Murray said afterwards. "I got off to a good start after he played a very bad first game. I served well and everything after that was good."
Murray, who now plays the winner of tonight's match between Spain's David Ferrer and Italy's Potito Starace, took the first set with something to spare, broke again in the opening game of the second and completed victory with an ace, shortly after Seppi had enjoyed his best moment by hitting a "hot dog" winner through his legs. Murray had won an equally stunning point earlier in the set, turning to smash a backhand down-the-line winner after chasing down a lob.
Like Murray, Federer has struggled to rediscover his form following their Australian Open final. The world No 1's bad run continued with a remarkable 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 defeat by Gulbis. He has now lost before the quarter-finals of his last three tournaments, his worst run for eight years.
Making his first clay-court appearance of the year, Federer faded badly after a promising start. "My game just wasn't up to speed," he admitted later.Reuse content