Andy Murray’s body is finally allowing him to dream of a deep run at a grand slam again.
The Scot defeated American wild card Emilio Nava 5-7 6-3 6-1 6-0 on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday to reach the third round of the US Open for the first time in six years.
Murray has a very difficult assignment next against 13th seed Matteo Berrettini but, with no sign of the cramp problems that had been bothering him this summer, the 35-year-old is feeling optimistic.
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Speaking on court, Murray said: “Physically this is the best I have felt in the last few years. My movement is by far the best it has been in a long time, that has always been a really important part of my game.
“Nowadays, especially with a lot of the guys hitting a huge ball, you need to be able to defend well. I feel like I am doing that just now. I am getting closer to where I want to be and hopefully I can have a deep run here.”
Expanding on what has changed later in the press room, Murray said: “My body is responding well to playing matches. It wasn’t the longest match in the first round, but I pulled up pretty well from that one.
“Then today I think, physically, I was stronger than him at the end of the match, which is a really positive thing, obviously. My game improved as the match went on.
“My movement around the court is good right now. I feel like it’s not that easy for guys to hit winners past me and I’m defending in the corners much better than I was 12 months ago here.
“I’m not having to worry about the next day waking up with something that is going to really impact me or hamper my tennis.
“When I played the match with (Yoshihito) Nishioka a few years ago here, I didn’t recover from that match. It took me months. My groin and lower back flared up badly and it took a really long time to get on top of that and get better.
“I don’t have any of those worries or concerns now. I wish I had won more matches this year. But being able to compete consistently, barring the little setback in the final in Stuttgart, has been good.”
The reward for Murray knocking out 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo in round one was a second-round assignment against 203rd-ranked 20-year-old Nava, who had claimed his first tour-level victory against John Millman on Monday.
He played well above his ranking in a gruelling first set that lasted 84 minutes but, not surprisingly, was unable to maintain it and Murray turned things around well, dropping just one game in the last two sets.
The Scot said: “The first set could have gone differently. I had a lot of chances, a lot of break points, and didn’t take them. Had I taken those chances maybe I relax a bit sooner and play better earlier.
“He came out swinging. I had to do something to change that, and I did. Turned the match around pretty quickly and finished it really well.”
Murray and Berrettini have faced each other three times before, with the Italian winning the last two, including the final in Stuttgart on grass this summer when Murray struggled with an abdominal strain.
Berrettini has had a difficult season himself health wise, missing the clay-court season following hand surgery and then being forced out of Wimbledon, where he reached the final last year, after testing positive for Covid-19.
Murray said: “Matteo has had a bit of an unlucky year to be honest. But, when he has been on the court, he has done really, really well.
“We played in the Stuttgart final. It was a tough three-set match. So, I am expecting it to be really difficult. But, if I play well and my returns are on point, then I have a good chance.”