The clay season is rapidly approaching and British number 1 Andy Murray will enter it as world number 2 following his success at the Miami Masters. It is consequently the first time that neither Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer occupy one of the top two rankings spots.
In the final of the Sony Open Murray beat David Ferrer, who subsequently reclaims the world number 4 spot, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 in a game that some would argue as poor. Yes it was in a way, it lacked quality and technique as the contest aged. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good viewing, it defintely was – watching two of the best digging deep to battle it out as a real dog scrap. It looked as if Andy was too tired to continue at one point, with Ferrer almost running out of steam too.
Despite the lack of excellant tennis there is still plenty of cause for optimism for the Brit, and not just because he won. Firstly, in the rounds prior to the final we saw him on top form – much better than he was in Indian Wells. Gaining 1000 ATP points for that victory is especially important for him heading into the clay season, when he is usually less successful. The 25-year old probably didn’t deserve to win the final but it shows he has the attributes to dig deep & win dirty, something required to be one of the best. The desire, grit and determination we saw was one of the reasons why he’s up there in the top two. At a couple of stages we thought he was down and out.
The US Open champion is still some way behind world number 1 Novak Djokovic, and not just in ranking points (see left) – the Serb remains the one to beat, his all round play and consistency will mean Murray will have to match him and go beyond him on every level if he is to claim the world number 1 position at any point this year.
Clay is, by the player’s own admission, Andy’s ‘worst surface’: “It’s the most challenging surface for me and with Rafa coming back it’s going to be very tough, but I’ll give it my best shot.” In last year’s clay season the Olympic medalist failed to get past the quarter-final stage in all of the events he competed in. At the French Open he was defeated in the last 8 by Spanaird David Ferrer, who’s excellant on the clay surface, and the right-handed player’s best ever Roland Garros finish is the semi-finals back in 2011. There’s plenty of room for improvment for him on clay. Let’s hope it’s a better season for him on this surface as he looks to sustain a top two spot and close the gap on Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic, who has been far superior to Murray on clay in the past.
I’m sure Murray will be busy practising away now on the surface becuase it’s first tournament begins imminently. The Monte Carlo Masters begins on 14 April. Last year Tomas Berdych beat Andy in the quarter-finals and there are no prizes for guessing who won. Yes, you’ve got it – ‘The King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal.
The event has been dubbed as one of the hardest, particuarly given the very first event of the change in surface – and the Brit agrees “It’s probably one of the more physically demanding in terms of the adjustment your body has to make from one surface to another.”