Andy Murray is drawing inspiration from French Open semi-finalist Marin Cilic ahead of trying to arrive at Wimbledon in the best shape possible. The three-time grand slam winner took another step towards a first singles title on grass in six years on Thursday when he beat Gijs Brouwer 7-6 (4) 7-6 (3) to progress into the Surbiton Trophy quarter-finals.
Murray will be in action again at the ATP Challenger Tour event on Friday when he faces fifth seed Brandon Nakashima, while at a similar time in Paris, 33-year-old Cilic will attempt to reach a maiden final at Roland Garros.
Alongside the efforts of old sparring partner Rafael Nadal, who is 35 like the Briton and trying to extend his record-breaking haul of 21 grand slam titles, it gives the Scot plenty of motivation.
“I don’t know whether it is Rafa’s last run or not because he seems to be doing physically really well during the event, so I hope he is able to continue going for a while, but there are a few of the guys,” Murray said.
“Cilic as well, he is someone I grew up with in the juniors and played a lot with. He has just made the semis of the French for the first ever time at 33 years old and is playing really well. “I can take some inspiration from those guys.”
After beating Jurij Rodionov in 58 minutes on Monday, Murray needed almost as long to clinch the first set against qualifier Brouwer, with a tie-break required which went the way of the top seed following a superb backhand winner down the line.
The Dutchman, who is ranked 230 in the world, provided even more uncomfortable moments for the double Olympic champion in the second, breaking him in the sixth service game only to let slip his advantage instantly.
Another tie-breaker had to separate the pair in the blazing sunshine at Surbiton Racket and Fitness Club, with Murray edging it again thanks to a mixture of trademark strong returning in addition to numerous aces.
The world No 67 said: “The first match was really clean from start to finish. This was a little bit different. We have been practising off site at one of the other facilities where the courts are very different to here and I didn’t feel that comfortable on the court today in comparison to the first round. Certain things were still very good.
“My serving numbers were excellent throughout the match, like they were in the first round and that wasn’t the case at all during the grass-court season last year. I struggled a lot with my serve then and it makes it difficult on this surface when you are not getting free points on serve.
“Yeah, I have done that well the first couple of matches and want to keep that going.”
Last-eight opponent Nakashima is in England fresh from making the third round at the French Open, but Murray is eager to continue his march towards a first singles title on grass since his 2016 Wimbledon win.
After Surbiton, the multiple grand-slam winner is due to play the Stuttgart Open next week and Queen’s Club later in June before he begins his latest tournament at SW19.
“Today wasn’t my best performance, but I got to play lots of important points and deal with pressure situations that are not the same as in practice,” Murray explained. “I have done a lot of training, I have practised a lot, so now I need the matches. That is why I have entered in the next few weeks of events and hopefully I’ll get a bunch of matches and get me ready for Wimbledon.”