Andy Murray of Britain celebrates his victory over Dominic Thiem of Austria during their match at the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday. Image Credit: AP

Madrid: Andy Murray expressed understanding for what Dominic Thiem is going through in his recovery from a wrist injury, after the Scot claimed his first clay victory in five years on Monday to move into the second round of the Madrid Open.

Thiem has struggled for form since he returned to court from an injury, which kept him sidelined for eight months and prevented him from defending his US Open crown last year.

“I have no idea exactly what his injury was or if it was similar to mine, but, yeah, wrists aren’t easy,” Murray told reporters following his 6-3, 6-4 win over the Austrian. “I also had a wrist problem in 2007, I think it was.

“It’s difficult when you try to come back from that, because the pain that you feel when you initially hurt it, mentally it’s very difficult to, you know, let go of the wrist.”

33 unforced errors

Monday’s clash in Madrid was only Thiem’s fourth match this year and the 28-year-old was far from his best, making 33 unforced errors, the majority of which came from his forehand.

“When the ball is low and you know you really have to use your wrist to get the ball up and down, or when the ball is coming fast and quite high you need to use your wrist a lot to bring the ball down. Yeah, that shot was certainly inconsistent.

“But there were certainly specific shots that usually (Thiem) would make. He’s still serving well, has a fantastic kick serve, was hitting his backhand very well. He’s an excellent mover.”

Murray’s experience proved crucial against Thiem, as the former world No 1 broke serve twice and saved three break points to level the second set.

Simona Halep extended her winning run to be in perfect shape for the French Open. The Romanian defeated Coco Gauff in straight sets. Image Credit: AP

“Obviously I have had some doubts… about my own game at times over this last period, but I do feel like I have started to play some better tennis, and I’m definitely moving better and moved very well tonight,” he said.

“I didn’t know if I was still necessarily capable of playing at that level on this surface. That’s why I was happy.”

Growing in confidence

Former world No 1 Simona Halep stepped up her French Open preparations with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over American Coco Gauff to march into the quarter-finals.

Halep, who won the French Open in 2018 and the Madrid title twice, is unseeded after her ranking fell last year following a series of injuries but she has yet to drop a set in the tournament this year.

The Romanian, now ranked 21 in the world, was at her aggressive best on the red clay and showed determination to win the longer rallies but was unable to break until the American teenager made a series of unforced errors to go down 5-4.

Halep served out the set but it only fired up Gauff as the 18-year-old suddenly grew in confidence and found success at the net to race into a 3-0 lead in the second set.

But the Romanian counter-puncher quickly recovered and fought back as Gauff’s error count continued to climb, breaking twice to go up 5-4 before wrapping up the contest in 77 minutes.

“I felt like I played the exactly what I had to play. In the second set she changed a little bit,” Halep said in a post-match interview.

“She’s been more aggressive and it was not easy to adjust, but in the end I pushed her back and I did what I wanted to do... We played a few times so I knew what to expect.”

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Tunisian eighth seed Ons Jabeur, who defeated Belinda Bencic, will face Halep in the next round.

Halep will face Tunisian eighth seed Ons Jabeur, who beat Belinda Bencic 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 in an earlier match where the final set was played under the roof due to rain.

“Just a reminder guys, Simona won against Paula (Badosa in the previous round) and she’s Spanish. So if she wins you have to cheer for me,” Jabeur said.

Great escape for Sinner

Earlier, Italian 10th seed Jannik Sinner made a great escape when he fought back from a set down and then saved three match points to dispatch American Tommy Paul 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-3 in a three-hour battle to move into the second round.

“It was a very difficult situation. I was up in the first set 5-2 and then I lost it,” said Sinner, who will next face Alex de Minaur.

“He played a very good tiebreak. I made a couple of unforced errors at the beginning and the second set was kind of a roller-coaster also.”