Murray: 'It's Feeling Better All The Time'
“It’s feeling better all the time,” Murray said. “It takes time after you’ve been out for a long period to get the match sharpness back. I’ve only played three matches in the past year, so I’m just trying to get back on the match court as much as I can and see how I’m feeling after playing two, three, four, five matches in a week. That’s the big test. I’ve done a lot of training recently and I’ve come through that pretty well. So hopefully if I get into that situation, I’ll be alright.”
The Scot showed signs of his top level in his return at the Fever-Tree Championships in June, pushing in-form Nick Kyrgios deep into a third set in his first match since 2017 Wimbledon. He then beat Stan Wawrinka at the Nature Valley International before bowing out in the second round and withdrawing from The Championships to better recover.
“I’m feeling better than I did during the grass-court season, that’s for sure. But I also haven’t played a hard-court match since Indian Wells last year. That’s a long time,” Murray said. “I have to see how the body responds… [I’ve] felt pretty good in practice.”
However simple it might sound, the Scot simply wants to compete. He won at least 40 tour-level matches in 11 straight seasons from 2006 through 2016, but has only played three matches in more than 13 months.
“I’m looking forward to playing. Like I said, I’ve not played a hard-court match for a very long time,” Murray said. “Once I get out there after the first few games, I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just want to have a prolonged period on the match-court right now. I’m looking forward to that.”
One week ago, Murray dropped to No. 839 in the ATP Rankings, his lowest-ever placement in the standings. The Scot first broke into the rankings 15 years ago this week at No. 774 as a 16-year-old thanks to a quarter-final showing at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Manchester, England. But the former World No. 1 is not worried about the number next to his name.
“I want to stay healthy through the end of the year. I think if I do that, then I’ll start to win more matches, my ranking will move up. If I only play one or two tournaments and then take a break for a month, it’s just difficult to get into that routine,” Murray said. “If I stay fit and healthy, I’m not worried so much about ranking. I want to be winning matches and competing against the best players and that will build my fitness up quicker than anything I could do in the gym. So that’s my goal between now and the end of the year and hopefully it’ll mean I’ll be ready to start the 2019 season really well.”
In his second and most recent appearance at the ATP World Tour 500-level event, in 2015, Murray fell against Teymuraz Gabashvili. He’ll have to be on top of his game early on, as the 31-year-old faces stiff early tests.
Murray will play home favourite Mackenzie McDonald, who advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon, in the first round. The winner will face fourth seed Kyle Edmund, who defeated Murray in his last match at Eastbourne in June.
“I’ve enjoyed coming here. It’s a beautiful city. There’s a lot to do and see. The event itself has got great history,” said Murray, who reached the final on his Washington debut in 2006 as a teenager. “I like the conditions here. It sets you up well for the rest of the U.S. summer. Unfortunately, last time I was here I didn’t play so well. Lost a tough one in my first match. So really hoping this time I could get a few more matches in.”