Andy Murray returns a shot from Roger Federer on day five of the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament at Linder Family Tennis Center. Photo by Mark Zerof, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.
NEW YORK - Andy Murray, without a title since his 2013 Wimbledon triumph, finally has the training under his belt to boost his confidence going into the US Open, where he broke through for his first Grand Slam title in 2012.
"I feel good," the Scot said on Saturday. "I have had a great practice week, had good fun on the court, enjoyed it, and worked hard."
It's a far cry from Murray's position going into his title defence at Flushing Meadows last year, when he was already battling the back trouble that led to surgery.
The recovery period made for a slow start to his 2014 campaign, and Murray said this is the fittest he's been for a Grand Slam in more than a year.
"Physically I'm better prepared than I was for the other Slams," he said. "I got my best training block I have had since before Wimbledon last year down in Miami. Trained hard and, yeah, I feel ready."
Murray, now coached by former women's world number one Amelie Mauresmo of France, has even taken positives from quarter-final exits in Toronto and Cincinnati, noting that in both tournaments he fell to eventual title winners -- first Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and then Roger Federer.
"I have been playing well the last few weeks," Murray said. "You know, I lost to guys who won the events, and had quite big opportunities in both those matches. I'm happy."
Murray, seeded eighth, could find both Tsonga and top-seeded world number one Novak Djokovic blocking his path to the semi-finals.
But he wasn't dwelling on the potential difficulties ahead.
He took some time off on Friday to head to nearby Paramus, New Jersey, to watch golf's world number one Rory McIlroy in action at the US PGA Tour's Barclays championship, then took in the United States 112-86 romp over Puerto Rico in a Basketball World Cup warm-up at Madison Square Garden.
"It was fun," he said. "I have never been to watch golf live before. For a first experience, watching the best player in the world was a pretty good experience.
"I guess it's like pretty much any sport -- when you watch them up close, it's impressive.
"Then in the evening I went to watch the basketball at Madison Square Garden. I love watching basketball. But to sit that close again and see -- I mean, those guys, they're huge guys, but just unbelievably quick, great athletes. Yeah, it was a fun day for me."
Murray will get down to business on Monday, when he faces Robin Haase of the Netherlands. Haase pushed Murray to five sets in the second round in 2011, a match Murray remembered as "strange".
"It wasn't a particularly clean tennis match," recalled Murray, who went on to reach the semi-finals that year. "But I found a way to get through."
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