By Ros Satar, in Cincinnati

  • Andy Murray [WC] v Lucas Pouille [16]
  • H2H: Murray leads 4-0
CINCINNATI, USA – After the emotional return to the hard-courts, Andy Murray returns to the Western and Southern Open, where he opens against the No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille.

 

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Andy Murray [WC] v Lucas Pouille [16] | H2H: Murray leads 4-0

Under normal circumstances a preview with that commanding a head to head would feel like a formality, but these are not normal times. For the first time since Wimbledon 2017, the Big Four (as was) will be at the same tournament and after all the varied injury tribulations, it will make for a fascinating opener.

Andy Murray battled his way through three emotionally and physically draining matches, twice having to come from a set down, before the emotional release after overcoming Marius Copil saw him weeping into his towel. It was a match too far with a late start finishing in the early hours and saw him pull out before the quarter-final citing a need to take care of his body on his return.

Lucas Pouiile at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, ATP Monte Carlo 2018

Lucas Pouiile at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, ATP Monte Carlo 2018 | (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

It is an enviable record against France’s Lucas Pouille, who has yet to even take a set off Murray, much less win against him – until now? The start of the year was far more consistent from the Frenchman reaching three finals, but he was disappointing on the clay, and his best showing on grass was the Stuttgart semi-final.

His time on the hard courts thus far has been short – and he is without a back to back win yet as the US Open Series winds to a close ahead of the final slam of the year. Having reached the Top 10 in March this year with that run of finals, he has slipped back to being just inside the Top 20.

Murray on paper has all the weapons and Pouille’s fluid and effortless style has been stymied by the sheer grit and determination in the past of Murray making play every ball. Pouille sometimes lack aggression though, especially in his normally unbreakable backhand and his movement and defence have often let him down.

What will be a real test – for both players – is that area. Murray will be back on the court after that gruelling contest, and we will see how his body has held up and if he can move well, he could well have Pouille where he wants him.

We saw flickers of some more aggressive play mixed in with the usual grind we expect from Murray all day long, and you would have to give Murray the edge in terms of experience and variety in general – but you have to feel this is not going to be easy.

Prediction: Murray in three sets.

 

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