Andy Murray: Choppy Performance in Second-Round Win at the Biella Challenger

Andy Murray ATP Valencia
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Andy Murray has won his second-round match against Gian Marco Moroni 6-4 6-4 at the Biella Challenger. The Scot continues the start to his 2021 season following his victory over Maximillian Marterer on Tuesday. Whilst his previous match saw him in decent form, his win over Moroni was not as tidy, despite winning in straight sets. We analyze his match to reveal the detail in Murray’s form in his latest victory.

Andy Murray in the Biella Challenger 2nd Round

First set Murray 6-4: Murray starts well on serve but narrowly scrapes through the set

Murray was untouchable on serve against Marterer on Tuesday and he continued in a similar vein at the start of his match against Moroni. Serving at a healthy 75% of first serves, Murray kept things simple enough for the first few service games, not serving aces but getting enough pop to force the odd return error.

A pair of double faults from Moroni and 87.5% of returns in court allowed Murray to move 5-2 ahead and a double break up. Murray still had not faced a break-point throughout the Biella Challenger.

This is why Murray needs the match practice, however. From a comfortable position, Murray’s groundstrokes started to fray at the seams a little. Moroni won 10 of the next 13 points and suddenly Moroni was two points from equalling the scoreline. A well-timed venture into the net, a ferocious forehand into the corner to force an error (Murray pumped himself up with a trademark “Let’s go” after winning this point), and a well-placed first serve were just what the doctor ordered.

Murray was not playing at his best throughout the set. He won the same amount of points as Moroni. His serve was winning him very few points outright and his forehand was off-colour. Murray was running around his backhand to hit his forehand, a tactical decision he rarely used to make so this may have been what was drawing the errors. Nonetheless, he will be very happy with how well he steadied the ship near the set’s climax – a net approach just to keep Maroni guessing and two well-executed shots to clean up are Murray at his very best.

Second set Murray 6-4: Unremarkable on paper yet Murray remarkable in execution

The second set does not look good on paper for Murray. Moroni hit five aces to Murray’s nil and Moroni hit ten winners to Murray’s three. They both had 14 unforced errors apiece.

The oft-omitted statistic in tennis is the key to Murray’s victory here–the forced error. Murray forced an error on 18 occasions whilst Moroni only forced seven errors from the Murray racket. Though he struck zero aces, many of these forced errors were a result of Murray’s serving as only 42% of Moroni’s returns landed in the court. This was just as well as Murray’s difficulty finding his range from baseline continued for the vast periods of the match.

Inverse to the first set, Murray started slowly and finished on a high in the second set. Four break point opportunities came and went in the early return games. His own service games were hardly a breeze either–in seven consecutive games from the start of the second set, his opponent won at least two return points. He turned up the heat when it mattered, however, winning 12 of the last 14 points, seven of them coming from forced errors.

Andy Murray’s form in Biella

Murray was far from his best Thursday. He would have liked to have gained some free points on serve and his groundstrokes could have been less placid. There is a lot to be said for finding variation (the end of the first set) and playing deep, consistent tennis (the end of the second set) when it matters the most though.

If Murray is feeling optimistic, he will be content with the fact he could find solid tennis in the important moments. If Murray is feeling pessimistic, he will be berating himself for an under-par performance. Given how much he has been through just to be back on-court, Murray likely has a glass-half-full outlook to his tennis career now.

Murray is next scheduled to play Blaz Rola. He has played Rola before, drubbing him at Wimbledon in 2014 with Rola only able to claim two games in his loss. Murray should have less trouble against Rola than Moroni–he should hold a strategic advantage over Rola given he has worked him out before. Be sure to catch the quarterfinal match-up of the Biella Challenger at 16:00 CET on Friday.

Main Photo from Getty.