Andy Murray says his victory over Carlos Alcaraz in a match billed as the 'battle of the generations' may well be his best since he returned from his career-threatening hip resurfacing surgery.
The former world number one has struggled with a number of serious injuries in recent years. He has undergone multiple hip procedures, including a resurfacing surgery in 2019. The three-time Grand Slam winner has not been beyond the third round of a major since 2017, and lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set epic in the first round of the 2021 US Open.
He was granted a wild card by organisers of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, and followed up a first-round win over Adrian Mannarino with an impressive victory against rising star Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday.
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He says it might be his best performance since his return.
“It would be up there for sure,” he said during his on-court interview.
“Maybe Stan [Wawrinka] in the final in Antwerp or [Alexander] Zverev last year in Cincinnati. It’s up there as it was a brutal match in tough conditions. The way I fought after losing the first set was great. I feel I should have won that first set, I created lots of chances but didn’t take it. It would have been easy to let that slip away, but I kept fighting and finished it well."
The 34-year-old Murray produced a typical battling performance to fight back from a set down to oust the 18-year-old 5-7 6-3 6-2 in three hours and three minutes, and added that, while his game is still not where he wants it to be, he had a game plan, stuck to it and retained his focus.
“I wanted to try and match his energy throughout the match. He’s obviously a young guy and I wanted to match that and in a way try to mirror him as best as I could. When it was getting tight both of us were showing frustration and in these conditions it’s tough to stay focused and not get frustrated. But I did a better job than I have done in a lot of my matches lately by just focusing on the next point and not thinking about what just happened,” added Murray.
My game’s not been great. I’ve not been happy with how I’ve been playing.
"I said to myself this week, because regardless of how I’m playing, ‘you’ve never liked conditions here so just accept it and the best you can do is fight for every point and give your best effort on every point and see what happens.’ I played some good stuff today but not always. The first match was the same but I had a really good attitude. I’ve won two matches off the back of that."
Murray's mentality impressed fellow British star, Johanna Konta, who said of the performance: “Andy just did what Andy does - he proved everyone wrong and just hung in there. I don’t think he played that well but stayed level mentally and emotionally. He kept building point after point.
His mentality is about resilience.
"It is about staying there and really asking your opponent to keep playing at their best. That’s what he did. He’s forcing Alcaraz to keep playing at that level."
Former world number four Greg Rusedski supported Murray’s assertion that it was one his finest results since returning to the tour and was full of praise for the way the two-time Wimbledon champion hit back to dig out an impressive win.
“I think so,” said Rusedski.
“You’ve got to look at the player he beat today and the way he found a way to get the job done. He actually should have won in straight sets. In the first set he had all those opportunities, had a set point and created all of those chances.
“But Murray’s variety in the second and third set is what made the difference. Alcaraz was the one making the mistakes. Murray was tactically astute and found a way to get it done. He physically and mentally beat him. That was a great performance from Murray.”
The win sets up a third-round showdown against either Olympic champion Alexander Zverev and Rusedski added that Murray’s ability to recover in time for that match - not the actual result - will determine the importance of the Carlos Alcaraz win.
“The question is how do you feel two or three hours later and if he can bounce back and play well against Zverev,” added Rusedski.
Whether he wins or loses against Zverev is irrelevant.
"If his body bounces back that is the key ingredient because that’s the question mark with Andy. It’s not if he’s dogged or can fight – it’s if he can do it back to back to back. It’s the first time he’s won back to back Masters matches since Cincinnati quite a long time ago. It’s an impressive result but let’s see what happens in the next round."
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