After an impressive start to the season, Andy Murray is now focusing on the rigours of two Grand Slam events in under seven weeks with both the French Open and Wimbledon looming on the tennis horizon. Runner up in the seasons first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, Scotsman Murray will be aiming for a strong performance in Paris to give him momentum as he takes on the tough task of defending his Wimbledon title.
A newly married Murray has been in irresistible form his since he tied the knot with long-term partner Kim Sears on April 11th in his home town of Dunblane, Scotland. An impressive display at the BMW Open in Germany culminated in Murray defeating Phillipp Kohlschreiber in the final – Murrays first ever clay title. Murray carried this form into the Madrid Open, dropping only one set enroute to the final including a commanding performance against Japanese world number six Kei Nishikori in the semi finals. Awaiting Murray in the Madrid final was the ‘king of clay’ Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard himself had looked impressive on his way to the final, not dropping a set throughout the tournament including comfortable wins over both Grigor Dimitrov and world number five Tomas Berdych. Nadal, the two-time defending champion and aiming for his fifth Madrid Open title, went into the final as the strong favourite but found Murray a man in form. A comfortable 6-3, 6-2 victory gave Murray his first clay ATP World Tour title and meant he had enjoyed his best ever start to a clay court season of 9-0 and back to back tournament wins.
With only nine days until the covers come off at Roland Garros for the French Open, the second Grand Slam event of the year, all eyes turned to Rome to see if Murray could hold his form into the Italian Open. After an impressive straight set victories over Jeremy Chardy, Murray yesterday withdrew from the tournament citing fatigue. A run of ten matches in 14 days had pushed Murray to the limit, an unfortunate byproduct of having done so well in his previous two tournaments. Murray can now rest and refocus fully for his attempt at French Open glory where he will be hopeful of going at least one if not two steps further than last years semi finals – his best showing in Paris yet. Murray himself has commented that he is playing the best clay court tennis of his career and there is now a new-found belief and confidence that means he could well go these extra steps this year.
Murray is available widely to back at 10 (9/1) to win his first ever French Open. Tournament favourite Novak Djokovic is 1.91(10/11) whilst defending champion Rafael Nadal with his outstanding 66-1 record at Roland Garros is 3.75(11/4).
BY: SCOTT MC GLYNN