Andy Murray, smiling again and looking as lean as a wolf on his new diet, was in upbeat mood after eking out a tricky win over the dangerous Argentinian David Nalbandian to reach the third round of the Cincinnati Open.
"I didn't mind whether it was high-quality or not," he said of his 6-4, 6-1 result on another drainingly hot day. "I was just glad to win, after losing last week [in the first round of the Rogers Cup]."
Less than two weeks before the US Open, the world No4 has dragged his game back towards respectability, although there were moments, especially when he was broken twice in the first set, when he might have wobbled as he did against Kevin Anderson in Montreal. Now he is in good shape to return to his favourite tennis city, inspired by memories of past success and eager to embrace the rowdy ambience of Flushing Meadows.
"I went there for the first time as a 15-year-old to play in juniors," he said, "and they put us up in a wonderful hotel. I won the juniors as a 17-year-old and the Arthur Ashe is my favourite court. I love the atmosphere."
First Murray has a chance for revenge against Alex Bogomolov Jr, who beat him 6-1, 7-5 in the second round of the Miami Masters in March when ranked 118 in the world. Bogomolov on Wednesday added the erratic Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to his CV, winning 6-3, 6-4 in fine style.
Earlier Nalbandian had hit powerfully down the lines at the start but the Scot gathered himself and wore him down with the dogged strength of his return game.
Murray paid credit to his Miami fitness team as well as his new nutritionist, Nick Harris, who has put him on a "green light" diet not dissimilar to that which has helped transform Novak Djokovic's tennis over the past year.
"I always ate pretty well," he said, "but it wasn't necessarily the right stuff for me. You have a red, amber and green section. In the red there's cow's milk, wheat, corn, the stuff we eat all the time, as well as pasta before every match – so I've cut all that stuff out and feel better.
"Also it's a huge advantage training in Miami. It didn't feel that hot to me today. They want me playing at 1pm to fit in with TV back home but I don't mind."
Rafael Nadal lurks deeper on his side of the draw and he too was coming off a shock defeat in Canada. The world No2 beat the Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-4, 7-5 in a match that did not reach great heights. He next plays his Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco, who looked comfortable beating the French serve-and-volley artist Michaël Llodra 6-4, 6-4.
There are two players of contrasting pedigree to watch here – and, probably, in New York. Roger Federer, without a major to his name since February 2010, is doomed to suffer by comparison with only one player: himself, the Federer who owns 67 career titles, 16 of them in grand slam championships, but who, having just turned 30 and surrounded now by arrivistes, may not win another that matters.
He looked poor losing to Tsonga in Montreal but here, where he has lost only twice in 24 matches over six years – to Ivo Karlovic and Murray – nostalgia kicked in and it was a wondrous sight. For an hour and 32 minutes on Tuesday night Federer played as near to his old level as he has done since the French Open and, in close proximity, one of the young pretenders, Juan Martín del Potro, did not compare so well.
Federer stretched Del Potro with a brutally consistent serve, feathery touch at the net and deep, angled ground strokes to win 6-3, 7-5. He may not be so extended against James Blake in the third round, the American's stock having slipped somewhat since they contested the final here in 2007.
The other player who is making a noise is Mardy Fish. At 29 he is leaving his run to join the elite a bit late but the world NoOn Wednesday he beat Nikolay Davydenko, the one-time third-best player in the world, 6-0, 6-2 in just over an hour.
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