ANDY MURRAY believes he is already reaping the rewards of his back surgery.
The Scot went under the knife in September after experiencing problems on and off for 18 months, particularly on clay.
Murray played his first grand slam match since the operation against Go Soeda in the opening round of the Australian Open on Tuesday and he could scarcely have been more impressive.
The 26-year-old was on court for less than 90 minutes in his 6-1 6-1 6-3 victory and struck 32 winners.
He said: “It’s not every single shot that my back hurt on before but certain shots I’m a lot freer in the movement just now. I hope that continues.
“That was the whole point of having the surgery. So if I was still in pain and stiff and sore then I’d be a bit worried about the next few years.
“But I’m hoping it was the right decision. I felt freer (against Soeda) than I did for the last 18 months.”
Murray is a three-time finalist at Melbourne Park, most recently last year when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic.
But, with only two competitive matches under his belt prior to arriving in Australia, he is having to deal with a large amount of uncertainty along with the usual challenges of a grand slam.
He said: “Going through surgery is different than going through any other sort of injury or break that you have.
“A lot of players don’t come back from surgery and are the same player that they were before. That’s something that’s always in the back of your mind, something that will worry you a little bit and something you’ll think about.
“Before the match, you’re worried about the conditions, but you’re also just kind of praying that everything is good with the back and you can wake up the next day and all is good.”
Murray played in the worst heat of the day on Tuesday with temperatures soaring above 42C, so the 26-year-old will have been delighted to learn his second-round match against French qualifier Vincent Millot will be played in the night session on Rod Laver Arena (around 9.30am today).
Feliciano Lopez, whom Murray has beaten in all seven of their previous meetings, is the only seed remaining in the fourth seed’s section, though a quarter-final meeting with the likes of Roger Federer or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would be a big step up in standard.
Ross Hutchins was relishing the feeling of being a grand slam winner again after achieving the latest milestone in his remarkable comeback from cancer.
Twelve months ago the 28-year-old doubles specialist was beginning six months of chemotherapy to get rid of the Hodgkin’s lymphoma that had invaded his body.
Hutchins had to build up his fitness from nothing after being told he was in remission in July but on a baking hot Melbourne afternoon he and Scot Colin Fleming beat Marinko Matosevic and Michal Przysiezny 4-6 6-4 6-0 in the first round of the Australian Open.