Andy Murray has played his first competitive singles match in four months at the Biella Challenger. He won his first-round against Maximilian Marterer 6-7 6-2 6-3. The Challenger Tour may technically be the second tier of men’s tennis, but make no mistake – Marterer is no slouch. The 25-year-old Germany is currently ranked #203 in the world, but he has been as high as #45 and reached the fourth round at the French Open in 2018.
He beat top-50 stalwart Hubert Hurkacz as recently as last September, and has also notched wins against Gael Monfils, Denis Shapovalov, Fernando Verdasco and Diego Schwartzman. Marterer also the advantage of having been playing competitively for the last three weeks. For Murray to get through this match against a dangerous opponent is impressive and the statistics back this up. This article looks to analyze the form of the Brit in his first-round victory.
Andy Murray in Biella
First set Marterer 7-6 (3): Murray serving well, loose in a rally
The sceptics among us will have seen Murray drop the first set and instantly thought he was nowhere near his best level. The statistics tell a different story. Murray covered his serve well throughout the first set, dropping only eight points throughout its entirety. Three of these points were in the tiebreak. He landed his first serve 73.5% of the time and won a whopping 21/25 points off the first serve. He also faced zero break points throughout the set. These serving statistics are very strong for any player, especially one that lost the set.
On return, Murray made Marterer play, making a return 82.6% of the time. It would have kept the pressure on Marterer had Murray not been looser than usual when the point went to a rally. Murray was the aggressor throughout but sprayed twenty unforced errors to twelve winners. Marterer on the other hand hit fourteen unforced errors to twelve winners, enough to make the difference.
Murray was a whisker away from executing his tactics effectively. Two breaks point opportunities came and went in the middle of the set and had Murray won either of these, the set would likely have been his given how easily he was holding serve. Murray won four more points overall but in the end, Marterer had hung in there in the important moments.
Second set Murray 6-2: Murray continues to serve well, vintage on return
Alarm bells were not ringing just yet for Murray. This was evident in how calm he was throughout the match – his constant dialogue was kept fairly muted throughout. His experience against left-handed players likely filled him with confidence in his tactical decisions thus far (Murray’s record against left-handed players not named Rafael Nadal is 85-9.).
He remained steadfast in his tactical decisions, looking to raise his level of execution of plan A in the second set. He landed a massive 84.2% of first serves and dropped only five points on serve. Furthermore, he tightened up his groundstrokes considerably, making six unforced errors to seven winners.
With the serve taken care of, Murray made moves on the return. He won 45.8% of return points, including all five looks at a second serve. He missed only one return and was aced only twice. The catalyst for his return performance was during Murray’s first break point of the set when he hit a backhand pass cross-court against the German.
The return performance and hotshot were vintage Murray and it gave him all the momentum going into the third set.
Third Set Murray 6-3: The wheels come off on Marterer’s forehand
Perhaps Murray had planted the seed of doubt with such a dominant display in the second set. After all, Murray is one of the game’s best at dismantling his opponent. Whatever happened, Marterer’s forehand deserted him. He hit 15 forehand unforced errors which is simply too many against a player of Murray’s calibre.
Murray took care of his own serve by continuing to hit at a high first-serve percentage of 71.4%, losing only five points on serve throughout the set. The noose tightened every time Marterer served – it was inevitably too much as he dropped his last two service games. Murray sealed the deal with a trademark backhand lob winner.
Andy Murray’s form in Biella
Anybody who has watched Murray over the years will know he can be prone to getting himself into sticky situations. This was not one of those occasions. His serving level was high throughout the match, it was his groundstrokes that were slightly under-par in the first set. Murray made the slight adjustments necessary to tighten up his groundstrokes, continued to serve well and consistently and his opponent’s level rightly collapsed under the pressure nearing the end of the match.
It may be too early to say whether or not Murray will win in Biella but fans should be encouraged by his most recent performance against a potentially tricky opponent. His next opponent, Gian Marco Moroni is yet to notch his first top 100 win – Marterer was definitely a tougher opponent on paper so if Murray continues this level of play, he should walk away with the win.
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