It was business as usual for Andy Murray in Rome today, after he returned to action with yet another victory on clay. The Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy provided a decent challenge for last week's Madrid Open champion before succumbing to a straight-sets defeat. The British player's decision to play in the Italian Open is an indication of his new found belief on the surface, as he continues his preparations ahead of the upcoming French Open.
Murray's winning streak is extended
The Scottish-born player was effectively brought up on the clay in Barcelona, where he spent his formative years as a young #Tennis starlet. It has never been his favourite surface though, at least in terms of tournament wins, yet in recent weeks he has begun to enjoy the experience far more. Successive titles in Munich and Madrid, boosted by today's second round success, have extended his current winning streak to an impressive 10 matches.
His form from Madrid was carried over into the encounter with Chardy. A 6-4 6-3 victory at the Foro Italico was a pleasing enough beginning to his tournament. The Frenchman created the first break points on the Murray serve midway through the first set, but the Brit rescued the situation with a confident winner. He proceeded to break Chardy's serve on the way to taking the set, as his accurate backhand began to take its toll on his opponent.
The second set provided a similar story, as Murray's backhand earned him another break early on. With only one likely result by now on the cards, he was able to close out the contest with a third break of serve before the end. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or David Goffin will have the pleasure of facing Murray in the last-16.
Wise decision or not to play on?
Murray must have been sorely tempted to skip the Italian event, with the second Grand Slam on the horizon. Not only that, but he faces a challenging period of matches in the next few months that will test his powers of stamina. After the French Open, he will have the grass court season to contend with. Queen's and Wimbledon figure highly on his schedule, with the Davis Cup tie against the French shortly after.
His recent form must have encouraged him that playing on is the best way to keep his form intact though. Rome also offers Murray the benefit of playing at sea-level after the last few weeks at altitude, another factor that probably influenced his decision.
The return of Djokovic
Novak Djokovic's return to the tour after a three-week break bolsters the Italian event. The Serb decided that he needed a rest prior to Rome, after an all-conquering run prior to that this year, including his success over Murray at the Australian Open.
The top seed is also safely through to round three, following his three-set win over Nicolas Almagro of Spain. There were signs that he was perhaps not at his fluent best after the 6-1 6-7 6-3 outcome, so he will be clearly looking for an improvement when he faces Roberto Bautista Agut (also of Spain) next.