World no. 1 Andy Murray aims to improve after scraping through his first match at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, as he takes on Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the third round.
Andy Murray made a winning return to action on Wednesday at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, and aims to build on his defeat of Gilles Muller as the world no. 1 faces Albert Ramos-Vinolas for a place in the quarterfinals on Thurday.
Having been out of competition since 12 March due to the right elbow injury which kept him out of the Miami Masters and Davis Cup, world no. 1 Murray was understandably a little rusty as he took on Gilles Muller at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Wednesday.
Murray’s serve has been the shot primarily affected by the elbow injury and when he double-faulted three times in the first four points to drop serve in the opening game, it was not difficult to blame it on the elbow injury. Muller very nearly scored a double-break 3-0 lead when Murray double-faulted again serving at 0-2, but Murray eked his way on to the scoreboard after Muller hit a poor drop shot and slowly played his way into the match, eventually breaking back as Muller served for the first set and then breaking the big-serving Sydney champion again to take the first set 7-5.
Muller promptly massacred his racquet and broke Murray’s serve to open the second set but again the break lead was short-lived and the set continued on serve until Muller was serving at 5-6. Murray produced a couple of fine passing shots to set up match point and converted thanks to a Muller unforced error for a 7-5, 7-5 win.
The big-serving man from Luxembourg will be berating himself for missed opportunities but Murray will have been extremely happy to get off the court in straight sets with a win under his belt. After a poor start, he served better and better as the match went on and looked quite sharp off the ground considering he hadn’t played for five weeks.
That’s all good news for Murray, who has a lot of points to defend during the clay-court season, having won the Rome Masters, finished runner-up at the Madrid Masters and Roland Garros and made the semifinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters – the only Masters 1000 Series event where he’s never made the final, although as a non-mandatory event he’s skipped it twice in recent years.
The season so far has been blighted by injury and various illnesses for Murray, who admitted before the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters that he’s struggled with the legacy of the many, many matches he played and won during 2016 in an effort to become and stay world no. 1. The fact that he has stayed no. 1 during 2017 so far has a lot to do with the fact that Novak Djokovic has been struggling as well and Murray won’t be happy with his results so far, with just the one title - at the 500-level Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships - to his name.
A good run at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters would mean a lot for Murray but it won’t be easy as he moves on to face Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the round of 16 on Thursday.
Currently at a career-high ranking of world no. 24, 29-year-old Ramos-Vinolas won his first career title in Bastad on clay in 2016, a season which also saw him finish runner-up in Chengdu to Karen Khachanov and make his first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a win over Milos Raonic at the French Open. Ramos-Vinolas only won one of his first four matches in 2017 but things looked up for him as soon as he moved on to clay, starting with the Ecuador Open in Quito where he was a semifinalist. Ramos-Vinolas went on to make the quarterfinals of the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires and the semifinals of the Rio Open before he made his fourth career final in Sao Paulo, finishing runner-up to Pablo Cuevas when the latter won his third title.
Ramos-Vinolas went 1-2 in Indian Wells and Miami and was unable to make a dent on Novak Djokovic in a straight-sets defeat during Davis Cup, and lost to eventual champion Borna Coric in three sets at the Grand Prix Hassan II last week, but has had no problems at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters so far, beating qualifier Renzo Olivo in straight sets and then trouncing Carlos Berlocq 6-2, 6-2 to set up a first career meeting with Murray.
Ramos-Vinolas is not an opponent to underestimate, a fact which will be well known to Murray, particularly when it comes to clay – not only did he beat Raonic at the French Open last year, he’s also scored a win over Roger Federer in the past (that was on hard courts at the Shanghai Masters). If Murray doesn’t serve much better than he did against Muller, he could be in for a long, hard morning’s work at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Thursday.
Murray vs Ramos-Vinolas is scheduled on Court Rainer III on Thursday at 11am local/10am BST