Doha: Andy Murray can be better than when he won Wimbledon, he suggested before taking little more than half an hour to win his first match in four months on the ATP world Tour in Doha on Tuesday.
Murray, a 6-0, 6-0 winner against Mousa Zayed in the first round of the Qatar Open, is making a comeback from surgery on a back injury which has also caused pain in a leg and a foot. It even required him to complete his historic grass court success against Novak Djokovic in July with physical discomfort.
But the brief evidence of Tuesday`s mismatch victory over a local wild card entry is that the surgery may have been a success and that both his freedom of movement and his potential may have improved.
For the moment though Murray`s words suggest more than his actions. "I guess with most surgeries you are trying to be better than you were before - and so far the results have been good," he said ominously.
"I haven`t lost any strength, I was training two weeks after the surgery, I was on the bike and everything has been going well.
"I don`t feel like I`ve lost speed, or strength. But I will know better when I`m playing matches against the best players in the world. It`s one thing doing all this stuff in the gym and in practice but until I start doing it in matches - that`s where the confidence will come from.
Murray had never previously described exactly what the injury was which decided him to risk an operation so very soon after becoming the first British player in 77 years to win Wimbledon, but now he did.
"It`s quite difficult to explain," he ventured. "There`s a lot of things which were a problem. But what exactly the one thing that it was, you know, I may not necessarily know, but I am hoping that the procedure I had done works.
"I was getting a lot of pain in my lower back, down my leg and into my foot. They were the symptoms I had but they could have been caused by quite a few different things."
Asked how he coped with such discomfort at Wimbledon, he said: "I don`t want to go into what shots it was hurting on, but the surface helped. The lower bounce, the quicker court - you don`t have to generate and rotate as much to generate the power."
A likely outcome of that memorable triumph is that Murray`s acclaim will continue to increase as time passes. He is already more popular now than then, and far more celebrated than two years ago.
"In the last couple of years the support has been getting better and better, and it does make a big difference when you are playing Wimbledon, or Olympics, or Davis Cup. And I`ve played pretty much my best tennis in those situations when I have had the crowd with me," he said.
"I think the (BBC) Sports Personality thing was nice," Murray said of his capture of the prestigious annual television award. "I would have liked to have been there but now everyone understands what my priorities are and it was something that I couldn`t do."
That was a reference to the overwhelming need to train, practise, rehab and recover at his training base in Miami, where he was presented with the BBC award by Martina Navratilova.
It also implied that there is a growing understanding and appreciation of a personality which in his younger days could seem shy, which in his early tour years might appear dour and guarded, and which is more often now seen as loyal, dedicated and tenacious.
"Obviously the awards and stuff would suggest that," he said. "But the best people to ask are the public. I don`t feel like it`s me that`s best to answer that. You know winning those sort of awards suggests that it (the public attitude) has changed a bit and I hope it continues."