© Zhuhai Championships

Andy Murray hits 13 aces in his three-set win against Tennys Sandgren in Zhuhai.

Murray: 'In Some Ways It's One Of The Best Wins That I've Had'

Former World No. 1 reflects on victory against Sandgren in Zhuhai

It’s been a long nine months for Andy Murray, but on Tuesday evening the former World No. 1 earned his first tour-level singles win since 1 January. It was the 664th victory of his career, but it was anything but ordinary for the Scot.

“I think that in some ways that it's one of the best wins that I've had, not in terms of just getting through that today, but everything that's gone into getting back to this point,” said Murray, who underwent hip surgery after this year’s Australian Open. “You don't necessarily appreciate what it's like to be healthy at the beginning of your career. It’s something that you take for granted and it's quite easy, whereas these past few years haven't been.

“Obviously after the operation in January it's been difficult and it was undecided at times about whether I wanted to keep going or not and it's been tough. But I'm really glad that I can actually get the win today and hopefully I'll be able to keep going.”

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The last time Murray completed a full Asian Swing was in 2016, when he eventually won the Nitto ATP Finals to clinch the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking. That year, the Scot won all five of his tournaments after the US Open, so a win was far more expected than it is today, when an individual victory has more meaning.

“[There’s] definitely a bit less pressure on myself probably than at different times,” Murray said. “When I was here for the end of the 2016 season, there was a lot riding on the tournaments and I was trying to finish strong to try and finish No. 1. Whereas, now I'm just trying to win a tennis match. It's quite different, a lot less, I think, less expectations from myself, less pressure. But also, just generally, I don't think people are expecting loads from me. So it's nice just to be able to concentrate on the process a little bit more. I think definitely at times in my career it's been quite difficult to do that.”

Just about one month ago, Murray lost to Tennys Sandgren at the Winston-Salem Open. And although Murray’s triumph over Sandgren Tuesday was on the other side of the world and in different conditions, emerging on top was a sign of progress nonetheless.

“Tonight my ball striking was, I think, very good. Tonight I was hitting the ball well, movement was I think pretty good. Tonight I served well. Obviously there's things that I feel I can do better, but it was definitely progress,” Murray said. “I don't know whether that's five per cent, 10 per cent, it's difficult to put a number on it, but I think I did a little bit better tonight than I did when we played a few weeks ago and that's a good thing.”

And most importantly, Murray is healthy. Although his tennis may not be quite to the level that helped him win three Grand Slams and 45 tour-level titles, the 32-year-old is no longer in pain, and that’s a win in itself.

“If I played that match [against Sandgren] in January, there's no chance I could compete the following day or even two days later, I would be in a lot of pain and discomfort. Now I'm tired and fatigued and muscles and stuff are tired from playing the match. But in terms of how my hip feels, that feels really good,” Murray said. “So that's very positive and I'm satisfied with that because, in January, I didn't, I couldn't remember what it was like to play tennis and not have the pain in my hip.”

Murray will now face #NextGenATP Aussie Alex de Minaur for a spot in his first quarter-final since Shenzhen last year.

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