Murray Battles For Second Win In 12 Months
It was not easy, but Andy Murray battled to his first hard-court win since 4 March 2017 on Monday evening at the Citi Open.
The former World No. 1 defeated American Mackenzie McDonald 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 after two hours, 37 minutes to clinch his second victory of the season (2-2) in just his third tournament back from hip surgery, which he underwent in January. The Scot advances to face British No. 1 Kyle Edmund in a rematch of their second-round encounter at the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne, won by Edmund.
“It was a tough, tough match,” Murray said. “It could have gone either way. Obviously if you lose a match like that, it’s a tough one. When I lost to [Teymuraz] Gabashvili here [three years ago], I lost serving for the match, so I was thinking about that a little bit, too. It is just nice to get through.”
Murray held five match points while serving for the match for the first time at 5-4 in the third set, but McDonald was steady, breaking back. In the next game at 30/30, when it appeared the American had an easy putaway volley to earn a game point, he was called for reaching over the net, giving the Scot break point. After converting that, Murray did not waste his second opportunity to serve the match out, closing out the encounter on his seventh match point at 12:46 a.m. when his opponent missed an inside-out forehand long.
The 31-year-old’s reaction said it all, screaming “Yeah!” twice as he walked to the net.
“I wasn’t dictating many of the points. I wasn’t hitting the ball that cleanly. I just fought and tried to make it tough for him,” Murray said. “Made a few little adjustments here and there. But mentally, it was a big one to get through.”
After Wimbledon last season, Murray did not play a match for 11 months before returning at this year’s Fever-Tree Championships. This is Murray’s first hard-court event since last year’s BNP Paribas Open.
The 45-time tour-level champion showed signs of good form in his first match back at The Queen’s Club against Nick Kyrgios, pushing the in-form Aussie before Kyrgios triumphed 7-5 in the third set. He also beat former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in Eastbourne before losing against Edmund.
On Monday, Murray showed both a strong competitive spirit and room for improvement. McDonald was unafraid of taking control in rallies early on, using a good variety of aggression and finesse with drop shots to control play against the World No. 832. The American excelled when he punished the Scot’s second serve, taking advantage of Murray’s repetitive placement by running around his backhand to attack with his forehand and control points from there.
But as the match went on, Murray’s steadiness began to wear on McDonald, who began to make more unforced errors. And once he began to spray more shots, Murray added more balls with little to no pace to goad his opponent into playing aggressively.
“I think I cut the unforced errors down. I started to serve a little bit better. I started off the match serving very poorly. I was struggling on my serve and didn’t feel like I had much rhythm,” Murray said. “I haven’t played in the darkness or under the lights in a very long time and I felt like my rhythm was off on serve, my timing a little bit. That started to get a bit better as the match went on, so that helped… I made a few less mistakes, but I would like to play better tennis in the next match.”
Credit is due to McDonald, who has shown excellent form of late. The 23-year-old, who entered the season without a tour-level victory to his name, advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon, using that effort to crack the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings for the first time. He also showed his talent in the second round of the Australian Open, where reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov defeated him 9-7 in a fifth set.
Only five other singles matches were completed on the opening day due to rain. Winners included American wild cards Tim Smyczek and Noah Rubin along with #NextGenATP Pole Hubert Hurkacz. Former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka was set to face American Donald Young right after Murray’s match. But as soon as the players took the court, rain began to drizzle again, and the match was postponed until Tuesday.
Did You Know?
Due to his injury, Murray slipped to No. 839 in the ATP Rankings earlier this month, which is lower than any ranking he had previously held in his career.