MADRID (AP) — It’s all starting to click again for Andy Murray.
The former No. 1 is feeling good about his game, and confident he's on track to getting back to his best after having hip surgeries in both 2018 and 2019. Evidence came with solid wins over Dominic Thiem and 14th-seeded Denis Shapovalov at the Madrid Open in his first two matches on clay in nearly two years.
“I played smart tennis," Murray said after Monday's 6-3, 6-4 victory over Thiem. "I used the serve-and-volley a little bit, used a dropshot, used different heights. Yeah, I did well considering, you know, when I did play.”
He followed that up Tuesday with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win over Shapovalov to set up a third-round encounter with top-ranked Novak Djokovic.
Murray hadn’t played on clay since the 2020 French Open. He arrived in Madrid with a 10-8 record on all courts this season and hadn’t won more than two matches in his last six tournaments. He reached the Sydney final in January for his best result of the year.
Murray had only 13 unforced errors in the victory against Thiem.
“I felt very clear about how I wanted to play,” he said. “I have worked really hard the last four or five weeks, probably longer than that. Sort of before I went to Indian Wells, I felt like I was starting to become a little bit clearer with what I wanted to do and was therefore maybe more engaged in the practices and believing that I’m doing the right things.”
Murray said he is feeling mentally stronger again, too.
“I feel like in the important moments that helps when you have a clear head and clear thoughts,” he said. “Mentally, I did really, really well. I’m really proud of that side of things. My attitude and my energy on the court was really good. Yeah, try and keep that going."
The 78th-ranked Murray is playing on a wild card in Madrid. He dropped out of the top 100 in May 2018, about eight months after he was last ranked No. 1 in the world. He said before the Australian Open in 2019 that he planned to retire at some point that year.
His ranking dropped as low as No. 839 at one point, returning to the top 100 in February.
“Obviously I have had some doubts and stuff, you know, about my own game at times over this last period,” the 34-year-old Murray said. “But I do feel like I have started to play some better tennis, and I’m definitely moving better.”
A three-time Grand Slam singles titlist and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Murray said he was satisfied with how his body has held up.
“That’s a really important part of my game,” he said. “Allows me to concentrate on the strategy a little bit more when I’m out there. I was just really happy all around with how I competed, how I played, how I moved, how my body felt.”
Murray won the Madrid title in 2008 and 2015 but hadn’t played in the Spanish capital since 2017. He also was a finalist in Madrid in 2016, losing to Djokovic.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni