BEIJING (AFP) – Andy Murray said his return to tennis is going “in the right direction” after the former number one claimed his biggest scalp yesterday since career-saving hip surgery.
The Briton defeated US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (9/7) in just over two hours at the China Open in smoggy Beijing.
Murray meets compatriot Cameron Norrie in the last 16 after a gutsy victory over the 13th-ranked Italian.
Murray, 32, a three-time Grand Slam winner, said he had made big strides since the first singles match of his return, a defeat at the Cincinnati Masters in mid-August.
Last week in Zhuhai he won his first ATP singles match since January’s major operation.
“I didn’t really feel like I was playing at a great level,” he said of his match against Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati.
“Whereas even last week (in Zhuhai), although I lost in the second round, I felt like I was playing tour-level tennis.”
“I think things are going in the right direction,” added Murray.
Now ranked 503 in the world, he fought back from a break down to force a tiebreak in the first set against the Italian Berrettini.
Murray showed glimpses of the steely determination which made him number one in 2016 as he grabbed the first set from the eighth seed.
The second set went with serve and again to a tiebreak, with Murray saving two set points on the way to a win.
Murray said that patience was now the key.
“Last week was a big step for me,” he said.
“Now I just need to try and get the matches, get them consistently, so that I’m used to playing three, four matches in a week.
“Right now, at this level, I don’t know if I’m ready to do that or not.
“So the more I can get through these sort of matches like I did today, I’ll get there a little bit quicker.”
Also in the men’s draw, Felix Auger Aliassime set up a clash with second seed Alexander Zverev of Germany.
The 19-year-old Canadian, rated one of the finest young talents in tennis, beat Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-3, 6-4.
Top seed Dominic Thiem defeated Richard Gasquet, 6-4, 6-1.
On the women’s side of the tournament, world number one Ashleigh Barty, reigning champion Caroline Wozniacki and Naomi Osaka all comfortably reached the last 16.
Barty, troubled by a calf problem last week in Wuhan, said she felt no ill effects in a 6-4, 6-2 win over Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
“We had a couple light days. We didn’t really test it (the leg) until today,” said the 23-year-old Australian.
“I didn’t play any points or anything, practice any points, simulation until today.
“I think it was about going back out there and knowing we’ve done everything we could, trusting it.”