Andy Murray has won his first title since 2019, and while it is just a challenger event, it shows things are heading in the right direction for the three-time Major champion.
Many may be quick to say that Andy Murray’s triumph at the Aix-En-Provence challenger event isn’t much of an achievement for a man with three Grand Slams and two Olympic Gold Medals. But despite only being a challenger event, Murray’s win highlights that his career is on the right track.
What is a challenger event?
You may be wondering what a challenger event is in tennis. Well, it is merely the secondary level of the professional tour, behind the ATP Tour.
Despite this, many high-ranking players use challenger events to get extra practise for an upcoming phase (clay, grass, hardcourt) in the season.
Murray’s opponent for the final quickly dispelled any claims that all challenger events lack quality, as the former world number one found himself playing Australian Open semi-finalist and world number 17, Tommy Paul.
Paul always has the potential to be a very dangerous player, as shown by his deep run in Melbourne, and Murray found out quite how dangerous the American could be in the early stages of the match, when Paul raced to a 4-0 lead.
The number one seed at the challenger, Paul served out the rest of the set to take it 6-2, placing Murray severely on the back foot.
Despite the early set back, Murray demonstrated his class straight away in the second set, storming to his own double break 4-0 lead. Paul was unable to make back any breaks, and Murray saw out the set 6-1, levelling the match.
The deciding set started brilliantly for Murray, as a trademark backhand lob gave him the first game, and break.
The luck was certainly the two-time Wimbledon champion, as an uneven bounce off a deep backhand gave him a second break of the Paul serve.
Yet again, Murray showed his class and composure as he served out the match to take the deciding set 6-2.
A good indicator for the season to come?
Rather than a victory at a challenger, the match in France should be seen as a victory over Tommy Paul. Paul is a high-level opponent, capable of giving any of the top players a run for their money, and Murray’s dismantling of him in the last two sets should be a very good omen for the Scot.
With the Rome Masters right around the corner, Murray has been drawn against clay court specialist Fabio Fognini in the first round. Murray will have to use all of his expertise and hope that the extra practise pays off.
After his victory over Paul, Murray’s world ranking increased by 10 places to 42. If he is able to make a deep run in Rome, it is not out of the question that he could be seeded come Roland Garros at the end of the month.
A good run at Wimbledon?
It remains to be seen how the rest of Murray’s clay court season will play out, but if it continues in a good direction, there is no reason to suggest that a good run at Wimbledon won’t be on the cards for the former double champ.
One thing’s for certain, Murray always brings his A game to Wimbledon!
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