It was no day to be hanging around in the sun. As promised, the mercury started rising on Thursday and as the punters bit into their lunchtime pies and sangas, the thermometer registered a steamy 38.5 degrees.
At that very moment, Andy Murray was already a set to the good against Joao Sousa and cantering towards his 6-2 6-2 6-4 victory. The Muzz is not daft; he may be one of the fittest blokes on the tour and he may pride himself on the amount of work he packs into his regular training blocks in the heat and humidity of Miami but he is still a Scottish person. And Scottish people, as a rule, do not do well in the heat.
When Murray was growing up in Dunblane, a pretty little town in Scotland, the nearest he would have come to 38.5 degrees would have been his mum’s oven, should Judy have been in the mood for a Sunday roast. Then again, if her youngest son is to be believed, the great Mrs M was not one for cooking.
“My mum’s cooking was so bad. Terrible,” the US Open champion said with a look of horror and disgust. “Everything was out of a can. So bad. The stuff that was nice was like the ready-made meals but she used to always gives all the vegies and the corn was all out of tins. All of that stuff was not great. The only thing that I used to like, and still like now, is pears and custard. The pears out of the can and the custard. The custard’s got to be cold. I don’t like warm custard.”
So, now you know. Anyway, the upshot is that our Muzza is not genetically designed for the heat and his mum is not genetically designed for the kitchen.
Meticulous as ever, and now coached by Ivan Lendl, a perfectionist who leaves nothing to chance, the world No.3 had been making plans for today’s conditions as soon as he got off court after his first round on Tuesday. He is fit enough and strong enough to cope with any conditions but, still, God is in the detail and preparation is everything.
“You basically take on as much fluid as possible, start hydrating even tonight,” he said after his impressive 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 first round win over Robin Haase. “You can't leave anything to chance; make sure you are very well hydrated today. I probably won't spend as much time on the practice court as I normally would. On the day of the match you've got to try and conserve as much energy in the build-up and hope your body reacts well to the heat.”
His body reacted well enough against Sousa – he never faced a break point and he had his place booked in the third round after just 101 minutes. A total of 14 aces kept the Portuguese at bay while Murray’s returning (he was able to break serve almost at will) and superior firepower and athleticism did the damage.
Even when Sousa made a bit more of a fight of it in the third set, he could not breach the huge gap of those 97 ranking spots between him and Scotland’s finest. Murray ran further and faster, he hit harder and more accurately. Sousa could not touch him. All those weeks Murray spent sweating and grafting in Miami were worth every second.
“It doesn’t matter how much training you do, it’s tough to get used to these conditions,” Murray said, barely out of breath. “When the sun comes through the clouds, it can be very hot. The longer the rallies go on, the tougher it is on the legs so you want to be the one dictating the points.”
Murray was dictating, all right, and now he takes on Ricardas Berankis, the world No.110 from Lithuania. Berankis – his name means ‘armless’ in Lithuanian – has only dropped one set on his way through the qualifying competition and on to the third round and absolutely flattened Florian Mayer, the No.25 seed, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to set up his appointment with Murray.