ANDY Murray would probably be the first to admit he is not yet firing on all cylinders, but with a week and a half still to go until the start of the Australian Open things seem to be clicking into place. After a slow start, the world No 4 showed flashes of top form to beat the Wimbledon marathon man Nicolas Mahut 7-6, 7-6 at the Hopman Cup in Perth today and he will be pretty content with how things are progressing.
Britain’s chances of winning the mixed‑team event — which offers a diamond-encrusted tennis ball to each winner — were ended by a 2-1 defeat to France, but the disappointment ought not to linger long. Though the organisers do not like to hear it said, this week is effectively an exhibition event and the players are understandably more concerned with fine-tuning their games for the bigger tasks ahead than adding a few jewels to their collection.
Laura Robson was disappointed with the way she faded in the third set of her match with the 17-year-old Kristina Mladenovic but in winning the second set in her 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 defeat she showed she is already improving under the tutelage of Patrick Mouratoglou, who took over as her coach just under a month ago.
Murray, meanwhile, has been training on his days off here and not surprisingly has looked a little stiff at the beginning of his matches. But he played well when he needed to against Mahut, the man who battled for more than 11 hours against John Isner at Wimbledon last June. Mahut had two set points in the first set and one in the second but Murray took the tie‑breaks 7-3 and 7-5 respectively to clinch victory.
“I’m trying to train as well this week to get myself ready for the Australian Open so some times at the start of matches your legs can feel a bit heavy,” Murray said. “In the first game that was clear and I hit a couple of really bad shots that almost went in the bottom of the net. But once I got warmed up and the adrenalin started flowing, I started to play much better.
It was a lot of fun.” The British teenager Heather Watson reached her first WTA Tour quarter-final when she beat Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain in Auckland. The world No57 fell 7-6, 6-1 and the win that will push the 18-year-old Watson inside the world’s top 150. — Guardian.