Andy Murray has not won a title for 13 months and is languishing at No 9 in the world rankings, but the Scot said today that he felt in better shape even compared to when he won his first Grand Slam title here two years ago. Murray will go into the US Open, which begins on Monday, confident that his back has recovered fully after the surgery he underwent at the end of last year.
“I worked incredibly hard in my last Miami training block and feel like I’m in the best shape I have been in for a long time,” Murray said. “It’s not much of a secret that my back had been troubling me for 18 months or so before I decided to take some time out and have the operation. It took me a little bit longer than expected to get back to full fitness and be able to train at 100 per cent, but thankfully I’m now there.”
Murray said he was not concerned by the fact that he has not won a title anywhere since his Wimbledon triumph last summer. “It’s always tough when you come back from an injury and it always takes time to get the consistency,” the Scot said. “The standard on the tour is very high. There are no easy matches and it is difficult to reach the semi-final or final of a tournament, let alone win a title.
“I’ve struggled a little bit in the later stages of the tournaments this year but I think I have also put in some very good performances and I’m confident that I’m back to where I want to be. It’s just a case of being patient and believing in myself.”
Murray said he was looking forward to the challenge ahead. “It’s an open tour right now. You have a lot of younger guys playing very well, and also a few of the more experienced players picking up big wins,” he said. “It’s always a special tournament here in New York, what with the city, the atmosphere and night matches. I’m really looking forward to getting started.”
The former Wimbledon winner Amélie Mauresmo, who joined Murray’s coaching team at the start of the grass-court season, missed last week’s Cincinnati Masters, but has been back working with him here.
“Things with Amélie have been going well here this year on the practice court,” Murray said. “We had a really good training block in Miami as well. I trained harder and smarter there than I had been able to for a long while, so that’s important, both mentally and physically.”
Murray’s first-round opponent will be Robin Haase, the world No 70. Murray has beaten the 27-year-old Dutchman in their last two meetings, at the 2011 US Open and at the 2013 Australian Open. Haase let slip a two-set lead when they met here in the second round three years ago.
“Robin and I have had some great matches,” Murray said. “The last time we met at the US Open in 2011 it was a tough match. Hopefully, this year I will be able to get out of the blocks a little quicker, but he can be a tough player so I won’t be underestimating him.”
Asked whether he felt less pressure now that his year as reigning Wimbledon champion was over, Murray said: “I put a lot of pressure on myself to win Grand Slams, especially Wimbledon, so when I finally did it, there was a sense of relief. But having won it once, I now know what it takes and I want to win it again.
“I feel I can win more Grand Slams and that’s why I work hard every day in the gym and on the court. It’s what I am completely focused on.”
James Ward was attempting last night to become the second British man in the main draw. The 27-year-old Londoner, who is at a career-high No 131 in the world rankings, defeated France’s Vincent Millot 6-4, 6-4 to earn a place in the final round of qualifying against Moldova’s Radu Albot.
The US Open is the only Grand Slam tournament where Ward has not yet played in the main draw.