After a difficult month in March, Andy Murray is looking to bounce back as he heads into the clay court season with the belief that it can culminate in triumph for him at the French Open.
Mediocre March for Murray
Murray suffered from two shock third round exits in Indian Wells and Miami, his worst efforts in the American hard court swing in recent years having contested in the final in Miami three of the four previous seasons.
The world number two lost in three sets to Federico Delbonis in Indian Wells in one of his worst performances in recent months, before falling to Grigor Dimitrov in his second home in three sets, despite leading 4-1 in the decider.
The 28-year-old reflected on last month as being a recognition that he cannot play his best tennis all the time, “obviously the last few weeks have been tough for me. It’s very difficult to perform at the highest level every single week.”
Murray is perhaps not quite at his sharpest at this moment in time, having taken five weeks off prior to the US hard court swing after the birth of his daughter Sophia Olivia in February. With a few matches under his belt and time to prepare for the clay court swing he is seeking to bounce back and pick up from where he left off on the dirt last year.
Breakthrough Season on the Clay
The Brit enjoyed his best ever season on clay, capturing his first career title on the surface in Munich after electing not to play in the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters. He then posted an even better result in defeating Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the final of the Madrid Masters. This newly instilled confidence on a surface which has hindered him in the past also took him to within one set of the final at Roland Garros.
In a match which was played across two days, Murray came back from two sets to love down to force Novak Djokovic into a decider in a memorable French Open semifinal. Looking ahead to his chances this season, Murray said: “There's no reason why I shouldn't have a good clay court season. Last year was definitely my best year on clay. It was the first time I've had good wins on clay against the best players. I know it’s possible, I can win the French Open, but I need to play at an extremely high level.”
Looking Ahead to Monte Carlo
Another bonus for the world number two as he prepares for this week’s event in Monte Carlo is that he only last played on clay in November in the Davis Cup final. “It wasn't such a huge break I had away from the clay. I feel like I've been able to adjust a bit quicker because of that.”
Murray will open his campaign in Monte Carlo on Tuesday against qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who defeated Guido Pella 6-3, 6-4 in the first round. Having only lost one match on the dirt last year, the Brit will be hoping that form continues, allowing him to reach his first final here, improving on his two semifinal appearances in 2009 and 2011, where on both occasions he lost to Nadal.