Three weeks of rest and celebration are over and it is time for Andy Murray to get back to business. The 25-year-old Scot will play his first tournament since winning the US Open at this week's Japan Open in Tokyo and says he is well rested going into what could be a hectic end to the season.
"A lot of players at this stage of the year are a bit mentally and physically tired," Murray said yesterday. "You need to find the best way of managing for the last couple of months of the year."
The world No 3, who is set to play four tournaments in the run-up to next month's season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, arrived in Tokyo on Thursday from Bangkok. "I've had a few more days to enjoy the city a bit," he said. "It's been fun. I've had four or five days' complete rest. During the season there's not many times you can do that." Reflecting on his year so far, Murray said: "I've improved my game. That's the thing I've been the most pleased with this year. With the way men's tennis is now, there is a lot of depth. The top of the men's game is very, very strong so if you want to improve your ranking and win more tournaments you need to keep finding things to improve your game."
With a first Grand Slam title under his belt, Murray now has his eyes on the world No 1 ranking. However, before he can boost his position he has to defend his points total as the champion both in Tokyo and at next week's Shanghai Masters. Murray and his brother, Jamie, are also defending the doubles titles in Tokyo.
Murray faces a tricky first-round match against France's Gaël Monfils, who is coming back after four months out with a knee injury; the winner will face Albert Ramos or Lukas Lacko in the second round. Murray is seeded to meet Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals, Milos Raonic in the semis and Tomas Berdych in the final.
Laura Robson, who reached a career-high No 57 in the world rankings after her run to the final in Guangzhou last month, is sure to make further progress next week after making a good start at the China Open.
Robson qualified for the main draw in Beijing by beating the experienced Swede Johanna Larsson and yesterday won her first-round match, beating Kimiko Date-Krumm, 6-4, 6-4. At 18, Robson is the youngest player in the world's top 100, while the 42-year-old Japanese is the oldest player competing on the main tour. Robson now plays Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino, the world No 67. Heather Watson, the British No 2 behind Robson, was beaten by Italy's Camila Giorgi in the final round of qualifying.
Britain's Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins lost the Malaysian Open doubles final 5-7, 7-5, 10-7 to Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares.