IF Andy Murray needs to know anything extra about his first opponent in the Monte Carlo Masters here today, he won’t have to venture too far to find out.
The world No.1 takes on Gilles Muller, the big-serving left-hander from Luxembourg in the second round, a man who used to be coached by Murray’s coach, Jamie Delgado.
At the age of 33, Muller is enjoying the best tennis of his career and at No.28, is just one spot short of his best-ever mark, which he reached back in February.
The pair know each other well having trained together in Barcelona with Delgado, who helped Muller return
to the top 50 after sinking as low as No.368 in 2013, an achievement which caught the eye of Murray and no doubt influenced his decision to add the Englishman to his coaching team in 2016.
Muller was far too good for Tommy Robredo yesterday, seeing off the veteran Spaniard 6-2, 6-2 to reach the second round and with his big serve, he is not a player to be taken lightly, even if Murray has won all five of their encounters.
Murray, in the other half of the draw to nine-time champion Rafael Nadal and world No.2 Novak Djokovic, should fancy his chances of at least matching the semi-final effort he managed here last year.
The elbow injury which caused him to miss the Miami Masters and Davis Cup appears to have healed and he has been stepping up his serving speed in practice over the past few days.
This is Murray’s ninth appearance in Monte Carlo and the Scot turns 30 next month, once considered the twilight years but now, as Roger Federer has shown at the age of 35, not necessarily a barrier to grand slam success.
“I still feel okay,” Murray said, deadpan. “I feel fine. My body hurts more than it used to, for sure. But I feel fine. I don’t feel old. I’m still enjoying training, practising, the matches. I think that’s sort of half of the battle really. The body holding up is very important. I think if mentally you still are enjoying it, you still believe that you have a few more years left rather than, oh, I’ve hit 30, it’s over, it’s only going to go downhill.
“I definitely think more challenges come the older you get because the players start getting better. The level of the younger players gets closer to the top guys. You need to find a way of not losing your skills and also improving a bit, which becomes harder when you’re older obviously.”
Djokovic, who turns 30 seven days after Murray, was a relieved man yesterday as he eked out a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win over Frenchman Gilles Simon in the second round.
Simon served for the match at 5-4 in the third set but Djokovic, beaten at the same stage last year, squeezed into round three. “It was a very difficult, physical match,” he said.
Nadal begins his title campaign against Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
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Source : HeraldScotland