There is a school of thought that suggests it is good to have a tough match in the early stages of a Grand Slam tournament because it steels you for the harder challenges ahead. However, you are more likely to hear that argument from a player who has just been through one of those matches – and is desperately trying to draw positives from it – than from someone who has been coasting through the early rounds.
In the immediate aftermath of his crushing second-round victory over Blaz Rola here today, Andy Murray was clearly in the latter camp. He recalled some of the tough matches he had at the recent French Open – in particular a marathon four-hour struggle against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round – and wondered whether he might have fared better in his semi-final against Rafael Nadal if he had felt fresher.
When you have played as many matches as Murray has – only nine other active men can better his tally of 451 tour-level victories – you hardly need to be reminded what it is like to be pushed hard on the court. Nearly all the top players would agree that conserving energy is a bigger priority at this stage of a Grand Slam tournament.
While Rola never looked capable of providing Murray with any sort of test, much of that was down to the Scot’s excellence. Every bit of Murray’s game looked in good shape. On the very rare occasions when Rola made inroads into his service games, Murray almost invariably served his way out of difficulty.
If Murray is to continue to make progress he will have plenty of stiffer tests to face. The big-serving Kevin Anderson, the Queen’s champion Grigor Dimitrov, the ever-consistent David Ferrer and the top seed, Novak Djokovic, are all potential opponents if Murray is to maintain his push towards a third successive final here. The quicker he can get through his early rounds the better he will be placed to face such challenges.