Andy Murray successfully returned to competitive action today, beating 36th ranked Marcel Granollers 6-4, 7-6(2) in the second round of the Rogers Cup.
Playing his first match since the Wimbledon final, the world number 2 showed understandable signs of rust. Although the windy conditions proved tricky, Murray started the first set well, comfortably dictating with a display of controlled aggression from the back of the court. Although the Scot's unforced errors began to accumulate in the second set, he responded positively and overturned a 2-5 deficit to claim the match in a convincing tiebreak.
Murray began the first set with an aggressive intent, while the 27-year-old Spaniard could be accused of playing a little too passively at times. The first break point opportunity went to Murray in the third game following a loose backhand error into the net from Granollers. He converted at the first time of asking after chasing down a dropshot and feathering it back over the net; in reply, the Spanish number 6 tried in vain to lob Murray but his shot landed wide to give the British number 1 a 2-1 lead.
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Murray followed this up with a convincing love hold and kept the pressure on Granollers, forcing a break point opportunity in the next game. The Spaniard saved the first with some impressive netplay, showcasing the skills that have seen him forge a successful doubles career. But he soon found himself in trouble again after a double fault, although managed to salvage the situation, this time with a strong serve that Murray struggled to return. Granollers faced another a break point after an impressive backhand down the line winner from Murray. This time, however, the world number 2 converted thanks to a return that just clipped the line followed by a searing forehand into the corner.
At 4-1 to Murray, the match began to change. From 30-0 up, he soon found himself facing a break point after a forehand failed to find the court, no doubt at least partly due to the windy conditions. A lengthy rally punctuated by a powerful backhand down the line that Granollers only just managed to reach, followed by aggressive crosscourt groundstrokes, levelled the score to deuce. A routine forehand miss in the next point though meant that he was in danger once more. But again the score was brought back to deuce as Granollers failed to capitalise on his opportunity, netting a routine shot. But a Murray double fault brought up another break point; and this time the Spaniard converted thanks to Murray's forehand clipping the top of the net and sailing long.
The next three games went with serve, and Murray then served for the set at 5-4. Despite finding himself in a degree of danger at 30-all, a good serve followed by a strong forehand in the corner earned him a set point opportunity which he took after Granollers' backhand sailed wide.
More unforced errors creeped into Murray's game in the second set. The first three games went with serve, but the world number 2 found himself in trouble in the fourth game. A double fault, followed by a point where the wind completely changed the trajectory of the ball, saw Murray at 15-30 down. Although he won the next point, a strong Granollers backhand yielded a netted response and it was break point again. A Murray shanked forehand, aided again by the tricky conditions, saw Granollers break for 3-1.
The next four games went with serve, although Murray had chances at 30-all in a Granollers service game and Granollers pegged Murray to 40-all in the next game. The momentum shift, though, happened when Granollers was serving for the set. The Spaniard displayed some wonderful serve and volley tennis in this game, which awarded him two set point opportunities. But Murray settled down, cut out his baseline errors, and moved Granollers around the baseline, forcing him into a backhand error. A Murray backhand was called long in the next point but a Hawkeye challenge overturned the call and Murray forced a breakpoint thanks to a wonderful return followed by a highly impressive passing shot. He broke serve following a rally where he successfully mixed up the pace before firing a forehand winner into the corner.
Having levelled the score, Murray held impressively although wasn't able to do anything on the Spaniard's next service game. Although Granollers brought the score back to deuce as Murray served to stay in the set for a second time at 6-5, a short angled volley saw Murray set up a game point. He converted after a Granollers lob sailed long, and sent the match into a tiebreak.
It is often the case that the best players really step up their level of play in the tiebreak; today was no exception. Although Murray went an early minibreak down after a netted forehand, a netted forehand from Granollers followed by a wide volley enabled him to gain the advantage. From this point on he never looked back, taking control with aggressive play that opened up the court. After setting up four match points with a scorching passing shot, he sealed his win with an aggressive return which was in reply netted by the Spaniard.
Given the fact that Murray hasn't played for weeks plus the tricky conditions, it was an impressive performance. At last year's Canada Masters, Murray withdrew ahead of his third round match against Milos Raonic so he has a good opportunity to gain valuable ranking points this week.
Next up for Murray is the Latvian Ernests Gulbis who today beat Fabio Fognini in three sets. Murray has won all five of their previous meetings, most recently in Cincinatti three years ago.