Andy Murray relishes the sort of five-set epic that carried him into the second round of the Australian Open but he would happily take a boring three-setter against Taro Daniel on Thursday.
Murray marked his return to Melbourne Park in typically-dramatic fashion by defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili in close to four hours – the third tight match he has had against the Georgian in six months.
But it is not just Basilashvili that Murray finds a difficult opponent to put away and the Scot has spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to try to be more efficient on court.
He said: “Obviously, in some of the matches that I have played I wouldn’t expect, even if I was playing at my peak, necessarily to win in straight sets.
“A match like (Basilashvili) against someone who is in the 20s in the world, it’s always going to be difficult. But obviously it would be nice to have some quicker ones.
“That’s where I have had this discussion with my team and we were talking about trying to shorten matches and ways to play quicker points.
“It’s difficult to get the balance because if, right now, I’m playing 20 in the world level tennis then, if I’m playing anyone that’s in the top 50, those matches are going to be very, very competitive and difficult to win.
“If you start trying to play a different style of tennis and try to shorten points and everything, and you maybe make a few more mistakes or maybe don’t break serve as much, that also can prolong matches, as well.
“Playing my game style but playing it at a higher level, I think will give me the best chance of shortening matches.
“When I look back at a lot of my matches in 2015, 2016, I was quite efficient and clinical, when I had opportunities and when I was ahead of guys, I’d finish them off quickly.
“Right now, because I’m not quite playing at that level, the matches are maybe a little bit tighter. So, hopefully, if I can continue to improve my level, I’ll be able to shorten some of the matches.”
On paper, Daniel is a much-less fearsome opponent than Basilashvili. The Japanese qualifier is ranked 120th and took only five games off Murray in three sets in their only previous meeting in Davis Cup in 2016.
“He’s a solid player, moves very well,” said Murray. “No big weaknesses in his game. It will be a good test for me to see how I can back up the performance (against Basilashvili).”
Murray is one of four British players through to the second round along with fellow grand slam champion Emma Raducanu, Dan Evans and Heather Watson.
Watson struggled in 2021 but has started this season with a new zest for the sport and was impressive in beating Mayar Sherif in round one.
Now she gets another crack at 29th seed and last year’s French Open semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek, who she lost a very close match to in Adelaide last week.
“I am really looking forward to playing her,” said Watson. “I played well in that match, especially in the first set and I just lost my focus and that’s all it was. So that’s an easy fix.”
Evans, who continued his excellent start to the year by easing past David Goffin in round one, takes on another in-form player in France’s Arthur Rinderknech.
The British number two has been working with Argentinian coach Sebastian Prieto, long-time mentor of Juan Martin Del Potro, since last spring and has a lot of faith in the partnership.
“I was sceptical at the start,” said Evans. “He’s Argentinian, I speak zero Spanish. His English is pretty good. But it’s worked well. He’s very relaxed. Relaxed but fair. Tough, as well.
“I have really enjoyed it. I hope he’s enjoying it. I imagine he must be. He’s still around. I really enjoy spending time with him. It’s a different way to train and look at the game. It’s definitely opened my eyes a bit.”