With the grand-slam gorilla off his back, Marinko Matosevic is even slowly starting to embrace his `Mad Dog’ moniker heading into a French Open showdown with Andy Murray.
Matosevic made it 13th time lucky when he beat Dustin Brown at Roland Garros on Tuesday to finally record his first win at the highest level.
The 28-year-old’s reward is a second-round match-up with Murray on Thursday and the Australian looms as a dangerous opponent for the Wimbledon champion after feeling he’s got a “giant gorilla” off his back.
“Hopefully it can free me up now,” the world No.66 said.
Often a man of few words, Matosevic was all smiles and full of optimism after the 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-7 (7-1) 7-5 defeat of German journeyman Brown.
He even indicated he had reluctantly accepted the nickname that infuriated him during the Australian summer.
Matosevic took exception to sections of supporters calling him `Mad Dog’ at events in Sydney and Melbourne, claiming after his first-round Australian Open defeat it was a “stupid” name made up by “some idiot” on an unofficial website.
It appears to have stuck, however, even earning an endorsement from Murray on Tuesday.
“From the time I have spent with him, I’d say that’s a good name for him,” Murray said, describing the Australian as an “interesting character” and “good guy” with whom he gets along well.
Matosevic still isn’t completely comfortable with it but he’s clearly changed his tune.
“It’s not that I don’t like it,” Matosevic said.
“It’s just … It started off, I thought, as a joke in Sydney and then the way I reacted to it obviously fed you guys and fed the crowd or whatever and then it got worse.
“It is what it is now, I can’t change it.”
Asked what he would prefer as a nickname Matosevic said: “Just my name. I mean, I don’t know. It’s fine.”
Matosevic and Murray have played once before, on grass at Queen’s last year when the Scot won 6-2 6-2.
Then Murray was building towards an ultimately successful Wimbledon campaign but he appears more vulnerable at Roland Garros, where he is seventh seed and still on recovering from a back injury.
“I learned a lot of lessons in Queen’s,” Matosevic said.
“He won and went on to win Wimbledon.
“He’s one of the best players in the world. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Also in second-round action on Thursday is Australian Casey Dellacqua, who beat Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez Lino 7-5 6-3 to set up a clash with Czech 23rd seed Lucie Safarova.
“I’ve been playing some really good tennis and I’m feeling good,” said Dellacqua, whose ranking has shot up to No.48 on the back of an excellent start to the season.
“I expect to play well most matches and hopefully I can get through a few more rounds.”