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Andy Murray masters blustery conditions to beat Melzer ahead of birthday celebrations

Andy Murray is not overly superstitious, which is just as well.

Murray adjusted his game to suit the testing conditions
Murray adjusted his game to suit the testing conditions

If he were, today's match with Austria's Juergen Melzer might have him running for the hills above Rome.

Murray turns 27 today, an age in modern tennis when a player is considered just about at a physical peak, which bodes well for the Scot as he heads toward the French Open and Wimbledon.

Yet the Wimbledon champion may just be a little fearful today, having experienced pain on his birthday before. In 2007, he injured his wrist in Hamburg and was out for three months; last year, he retired at one set all against Marcel Granollers Pujol of Spain in Rome with a back problem that later required surgery.

Yesterday, Murray exorcised the memory of the latter match, beating the Spaniard 6-2, 7-5 in the second round of the Rome Masters, giving something of a masterclass in how to play in the wind.

Raised in Dunblane, Murray is well used to blustery winds and, after all the talk of finding a new coach to replace Ivan Lendl, he was probably relieved to have to focus on dealing with the conditions, rather than more questions about who it will be and when it will be done.

"You need to think your way through the match, you have to be patient with yourself," Murray said. "I just tried to play a smart match, tried to keep the ball low when I needed to and, when I had the wind with me, I gave the ball a little bit of extra spin to control it. That was it."

Spectators at the Foro Italico required sunglasses to protect them from what clay remained on the courts after a second day of high winds sent most of it spiralling around the grand old venue. Murray, though, showed his experience in the conditions, taking extra steps, keeping the ball in play when required, especially on serve, taking some pace off to land more than 80% of first serves, relieving pressure on his second.

"I went for a high percentage of first serves today because it was very, very windy and also the sun was coming round from one of the ends, so that was in your eyes," he said. "All the dust and stuff from the court was getting in your eyes and it was extremely blustery, strong conditions. From one of the ends it was tough to get any real depth on the ball."

Murray will be confident of beating Melzer, having won all five of their previous contests, but he is likely to have the top seed Rafael Nadal lying in wait for him after the Spaniard's marathon win over the Frenchman Gilles Simon last night. Nadal faces Mikhail Youzhny of Russia today.

Roger Federer's trip away from his newly-born second set of twins was short and not so sweet as he failed to convert a match point and lost 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 to France's Jeremy Chardy.

Serena Williams brushed aside Andrea Petkovic but Venus lost 6-4, 6-2 to Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.

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