INDIAN WELLS, March 12 ― Former world number one Andy Murray rallied after a dismal first set to beat Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel in the first round at Indian Wells yesterday and claim a 700th ATP Tour match victory.
Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion now ranked 88th in the world and playing on a wildcard invitation, was broken at love four times but held on for a gritty 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory in the first round of the prestigious ATP Masters tournament.
It was his second win in three matches this year against Daniel, who stunned Murray in the second round of the Australian Open before the Briton turned the tables in the first round at Doha.
Murray, who is reuniting with coach Ivan Lendl in a bid to regain championship form after years marked by injury and indifferent results, is now one of just four active players to have won 700 tour matches, along with Roger Federer (1,215), Rafael Nadal (1,043) and Novak Djokovic (991).
“Reaching that number is a really, really good achievement,” said Murray.
“It's not been easy getting there,” he added, noting that he had reached 600 match wins in 2016 before his victory rate was slowed in large part by injury.
“Five and a half years to get the last hundred, so it's taken awhile,” he said.
Murray said it's the kind of stat he wouldn't have paid too much attention to early in his career.
“I do look at that stuff now,” he said. “Like I do look at the other players that are around me, around those numbers. (It) gives me some motivation and encouragement to try to get higher and win more matches.
“When you look at the players that have done it, most of the players that are up there and have won that many matches are certainly the best players of the last sort of 30, 40 years.
“To be in amongst that is nice.”
The signs weren't auspicious that he would reach the milestone when Daniel raced through the opening set in 28 minutes, Murray claiming just four points on his serve.
But Murray responded in the second, powering to a 5-0 lead himself before Daniel managed to hold serve.
Daniel then broke him to love again before Murray broke back to force a deciding set.
Daniel gained a quick upper hand with another break to love in the opening game of the third, but Murray levelled the set with a break for 3-3 and after a tense hold for 5-4 broke Daniel again for the win on his third match point.
The victory is a morale booster for Murray, who said his ability to maintain a positive attitude was a key takeaway from the match.
“To be honest, I've not been playing well,” he said. “There's obviously been the physical battle, but also mental battle as well, of trying to find my game, trying to be patient and not get too frustrated and too down on myself, which has been tough these last four or five months.
“It's going to take some time on the practice court to work on. I'm looking forward to working on that with Ivan after the Miami tournament, I'll train in Orlando there with him.” ― AFP