Andy Murray has become the marathon man of 2023, but on Saturday he got the job done quickly.
The former World No. 1 reached the third round of the BNP Paribas Open with a 6-4, 6-3 win against Moldovan Radu Albot after one hour and 42 minutes. It was the Scot’s first straight-sets victory of the year.
“I felt very nervous today. I’m not sure exactly why,” Murray said in his on-court interview. “Obviously I’ve played a lot of tennis coming in, maybe I saw it was an opportunity for me. Maybe wasn’t as well prepared. I’d gone over my strategy and everything with my team to play Carreno Busta and then found out late last night the change of opponent.”
Murray went from facing one player he had never taken on before in Pablo Carreno Busta (elbow injury) to another in Albot. The change did not affect the success of the 35-year-old, who dominated on serve. He won 78 per cent of his service points and did not face a break point.
“We’d not played each other before, and maybe [I] thought it was a bit of an opportunity,” Murray said. “Had lots of break points again, wasn’t quite able to get them. It was quite tricky conditions at the beginning, very windy. But I did well in the end to get through.”
Albot, who was trying to claim his 100th tour-level win, battled hard to make the first set tricky. But when Murray broke for the opening set and let out a big roar, he took control.
Each man tried to outmanoeuvre the other in chess-like rallies. But Murray made just 18 unforced errors compared to 35 for Albot, which proved the difference.
Murray will next face another Briton in Jack Draper, who continued to make his mark on the 2023 BNP Paribas Open Saturday. The 21-year-old clinched a 6-4, 6-2 win against his countryman Daniel Evans to reach the third round on event debut in Indian Wells.
The 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals semi-finalist Draper converted four of 10 break points to seal victory against the 24th seed Evans in two hours on Stadium 5. With his second-round triumph, Draper backed up his scintillating opening display at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where he dropped just two games in moving past #NextGenATP Swiss Leandro Riedi on Thursday.
Saturday’s clash was the first tour-level meeting between Draper and Evans, who had defeated his younger countryman at a 2019 ATP Challenger Tour event in Nottingham. Evans had opportunities to forge a repeat of that result in the California desert, but Draper fended off 10 of 11 break points as he repeatedly repelled his more experienced opponent.
The lefty has proven his ability to go deep at ATP Masters 1000 level before — he reached the quarter-finals of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in Montreal last August. His next opponent, Murray, has long praised him.
“He doesn’t have huge weaknesses in his game. For a lot of guys his size that are lefties that I’ve played against in the past, maybe [they] don’t return that well. But he is a good returner for a big guy,” Murray told ATPTour.com of Draper last year. “The two most important fundamental shots in the game he does well. He serves well, returns well.
“For a big guy, he moves pretty well also and then from the back of the court, his backhand is a very solid shot. [He] rarely makes unforced errors on that side and then on the forehand, he plays with a lot of spin. When he’s got time he can finish points. He’s got a big forehand when he’s got time to load up on it and he’s a smart player as well and a good competitor. He’s got lots of things going for him.”