Murray enjoying a desert revival

 - Reem Abulleil

Former world No.1 produces incredible tennis to move past Alcaraz in Indian Wells

Andy Murray© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

He’s back in the “good books” at home, and back in the third round at Indian Wells – it’s fair to say things are looking up for Andy Murray this week in the California desert.

The former world No.1 pulled off an impressive comeback from a set down to defeat Spanish phenom Carlos Alcaraz 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday, moving into the last-32 at the tournament for the first time since 2016.

Off the court, Murray enjoyed a different kind of comeback as he managed to retrieve his stolen pair of smelly shoes that had his wedding ring tied to its laces.

Four days ago, Murray made a desperate plea in a video message on his Instagram, asking people to help him find the shoes he had left to air out under his car in the parking lot of his Indian Wells hotel.

“My wedding ring has been stolen as well. Needless to say I’m in the bad books at home,” said Murray in his video post.

On Saturday, the Scot revealed he was able to get his shoes, and wedding ring back, following multiple visits to the hotel’s lost and found, happily announcing he was “back in the good books”.

With his ring safely tied to his shoelaces on Monday, Murray tapped into his inner warrior to overcome recent US Open quarter-finalist Alcaraz in a three-hour, three-minute battle, in what the 34-year-old described were “painfully slow” conditions.

Showing the kind of resilience that has kept his tennis career alive through multiple hip surgeries, Murray produced a high-level performance against the 18-year-old Alcaraz, outrunning and outsmarting the talented youngster, and even hitting an underarm ace during the contest.

“What I’d give to be 18 again,” Murray wrote in a caption that accompanied a photo of him and Alcaraz. “@carlitosalcarazz is a special talent and it was a pleasure sharing the court with him today.”

Alcaraz had a slow start but soon showcased his firepower and versatility that turned the match into a tug of war. Coached by 2003 Roland-Garros champion Juan Carlo Ferrero, Alcaraz unleashed missiles from the back of the court, peppered Murray with drop shots and lobs, and was exceptionally solid at the net, but still couldn’t stop his opponent from advancing to a third-round meeting with Alexander Zverev.

“I feel like I can still compete at the top of the game regardless of how many people tell me to stop and I shouldn't keep going and whatever,” Murray said on court after the win.

“To play in front of a pretty packed crowd here at this event, it was a brilliant atmosphere and I enjoyed it; it's why I'm still playing.”

Murray takes a 2-0 head-to-head record lead into his next clash with Zverev, who has won 18 of his last 19 matches, including an Olympic gold medal and the title in Cincinnati.

“At times I played some really good tennis (against Alcaraz). It wasn't my best match. I can certainly still do things better. I thought I competed well today, which was probably the most pleasing part for me,” said the three-time Grand Slam champion.

“Looking towards the next match, obviously Zverev is a top player. He's had a good summer post Wimbledon with the Olympics, then a great run in New York. Played a tough match with Novak (Djokovic) there. Yeah, not going to be easy for me. I played some good matches against him in the past. Will need to play really well.”

Should we expect more underarm serves from Murray moving forward?

“Alcaraz started standing further back to return to the first serve, the courts are painfully slow here, I wasn't getting many free points with my first serve, I served three aces in the whole match and one of them was the underarm serve,” he explained. “I was thinking about using it again in the third set but didn't. First time I've ever done it in a match and got the ace, so maybe I'll try again in the future against guys standing that far back.”

Murray’s mother Judy was understandably thrilled with her son’s performance on Monday, sharing a post on her social media that read, “Underestimate me, that’ll be fun”, along with a photo of Andy. He continues to prove his naysayers wrong. Write him off at your own peril!