US Open: Longer-term goals for Murray as Konta falls early once more

STRETCHED: Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns a shot to Hungary's Marton Fucsovics, who he defeated in four sets. (Picture: Frank Franklin II/AP)
STRETCHED: Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns a shot to Hungary's Marton Fucsovics, who he defeated in four sets. (Picture: Frank Franklin II/AP)
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Andy Murray is trying to marry a successful grand slam comeback at the US Open with changing his game style to better protect his troublesome hip.

The 31-year-old played his first slam match in nearly 14 months on Monday at Flushing Meadows, defeating Australia’s James Duckworth in four sets.

Afterwards Murray detailed the gruelling rehab programme, lasting up to seven hours a day, that he is putting himself through in an attempt to return to the top of the game.

The Scot has always been able to fall back on his superhuman defensive skills, but with question marks about his movement long term finding a more offensive style is surely necessary.

Murray said: “There are things that I want to focus on longer-term that are going to be beneficial for my game, like a game style that I would like to be playing.

“It’s quite clear the way I’m trying to play. But then also you go into the match with tactics and a game plan to try and make it as difficult for your opponent as possible.

“So it’s kind of a combination of the two. There are certain things I want to be doing on the match court every match that’s going to hopefully give me a better chance to get back to where I want to get to.”

Murray improved through the match against Duckworth after a slow start and, although there were signs of a limp from fairly early on, he handled the physical challenge surprisingly well in hot and humid conditions.

The Scot admitted he expects to feel pain in his hip for the rest of his career, and wrote in his BBC column: “When I’m going into the match I’m trying to prepare myself mentally that I’m not going to feel great physically after the match, or that my hip will feel painful.” Another change Murray has made is shortening his practice sessions on non-match days during grand slam slams, saying: “I’m not going to be having intense, long practices during a grand slam ever again.”

Murray must now prepare for today’s test that will be a good barometer of where he is in comparison with the leading players, with 31st seed Fernando Verdasco up next.

British No 2 Cameron Norrie, beat another Australian Jordan Thompson to reach the second round alongside Murray.

Norrie has made swift progress since turning professional last Spring and added another £42,000 to his career earnings of £522,000.

The 23-year-old currently bases himself at his former college in Texas, but is hoping to use his prize money to buy a London flat. He joked of London property prices: “I’ll probably have to make the semis here. Maybe (I need to) win it for Putney or Wimbledon.”

Johanna Konta’s disappointing run at grand slams continued with a 6-2 6-2 defeat to sixth seed Caroline Garcia.

The British No 1 has only won two matches at the last five slams combined, although this was by far the most difficult draw she has had.

This was a legacy of the fall down the rankings that meant Konta was not seeded at a slam for the first time since the 2016 Australian Open.

She has shown improved form of late, producing her best two wins of the year by dismissing Serena Williams for the loss of just one game at a recent event and then defeating former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

But Garcia, who has been heading in the other direction and denied Konta a place at the WTA Finals last year, proved far too strong.