By JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – Boom. Boom. Squeals. And Applause.
Andy Murray thrilled fans as he practiced at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Targeting cans of tennis balls set in the corners of the service box, his aim several times was perfect and observers erupted in cheers when back-to-back serves scattered the cans to the back of the court. One serve actually broke the can.
The explosion was startling among the otherwise relatively quiet practice courts at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
So far this year, Murray has served 305 aces in competition, ranking him 17th among ATP World Tour players. Feliciano López tops all with a whopping 551 aces in 45 matches.
Murray captured the Cincinnati title in 2008, when he beat Novak Djokovic in two tiebreakers. Last year, he lost to Mardy Fish in a nearly three-hour quarterfinal battle, visibly suffering in the heat and receiving treatment on his knee. After an introductory bye, this year’s No. 4 seed will first face David Nalbandian, who beat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4 Monday. He practiced with David Ferrer and did the serve drills by himself before Juan Mónaco and Fernando Verdasco took the over court.
Grigor Dimitrov also charmed spectators with his politeness while practicing with Nalbandian. He regularly said “please” and “thank you” as he requested specific shots from his partner. The 20-year-old wild card defeated qualifier Marsel İlhan 6-3, 7-5 yesterday. In the second round, he takes on fifth seed Ferrer.
In the first of two practices Sunday, Rafael Nadal hit the ball long and hard, often pushing his partner, Marc López, deep behind the baseline. One shank, however, sailed over the fence and into Andrea Petković’s practice.
The second seed’s opening-round opponent will be determined Tuesday, when Guillermo García-López and Julien Benneteau spar on Court 6.
Nadal also is competing in doubles with López. Their first-round match against Janko Tipsarević and Viktor Troicki is scheduled as the fourth match on Court 3 Tuesday.
James Henry is a contributing writer for OnTheGoTennis and is currently in Cincinnati covering the tournament. To follow him on Twitter click here.