Andy Murray, who is 27 on Thursday, does not celebrate his birthdays any more. “I don’t particularly look forward to them,” Murray said here after his 6-2, 7-5 victory over Marcel Granollers at the Rome Masters. “Birthdays for me aren’t the same as when you’re 12 years old.”
Perhaps another reason why the Scot would prefer to keep a low profile is the bad luck this day has brought him in the past. Murray has retired hurt only twice on the main tour – and both occasions were on his birthday. In Hamburg in 2007 he suffered a wrist injury which forced him to miss the French Open and Wimbledon and it was here 12 months ago that he retired with a back problem that eventually required surgery.
Given that his opponent on Wednesday was the same man who had been on the opposite side of the net when he quit last year Murray could have been forgiven for being apprehensive, but the world No 8 did a thoroughly professional job in the most testing of conditions.
With a fierce wind gusting around the stadium, the dusty court surface blew into the players’ faces and played havoc with the ball. The wind was so strong that the ground staff watered the court midway through the first set in an attempt to stop the clay blowing away.
“The courts are getting mullered and there’s no clay on them at all,” Murray said. “Depending on which side of the court you’re on you have to play the wind and use it to your advantage if you can. I thought I did a good job of that, especially in the first set.”
Murray, who now meets Austria’s Jürgen Melzer in the third round, played percentage tennis, keeping the ball inside the lines, trying not to hit too many second serves and declining several opportunities to smash. However, he had two strokes of good fortune when he made his first break.
With his opponent serving at 40-30 up in the sixth game but trailing Murray 3-2 in the set, a forehand from the Scot appeared to fly wide, but the line judge’s view was blocked by Granollers, who went on to lose the point. Murray broke two points later with a backhand winner as a big gust of wind whipped up a cloud of dust that blew into Granollers’ face. The Spaniard improved in the second set and won 16 points in a row on his serve but was broken in the 12th game.
Murray is playing only his second tournament of the European clay-court season. He believes his heavy workload last summer contributed to his back problems. “Maybe I was a bit fatigued,” he said. “My body was not in great shape and sometimes you get things a bit wrong in your preparation. The important thing is to learn from that.”
Roger Federer will start the French Open, which begins in 10 days’ time, having played just one competitive match in five weeks after losing 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 to France’s Jérémy Chardy in Rome. Federer missed last week’s Madrid Masters because of the birth of his second set of twins.
While he was happy to be heading home to his family – “I can’t wait to get out of this place” – Federer also admitted: “It wasn’t fun leaving the court, thinking what happened out there. Maybe I was angry and disappointed and frustrated, but then I was like: ‘OK, let’s just go home.’ ”
The Lawn Tennis Association on Wednesday launched four “Great British Tennis Weekends” which will take place across the country this summer, the first of them this weekend. Thousands of parks and clubs will offer free tennis in an attempt to encourage more people to play.
Marion Bartoli will work at the French Open alongside John Inverdale, who apologised to the Wimbledon champion last summer for saying she was “never going to be a looker”. Inverdale will present ITV’s coverage while Bartoli will work as a pundit.