As the 2016 clay court season continues, all eyes look towards the Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Rome, before the big event that everyone wants to win, the French Open. Despite winning Wimbledon, the US Open, the Davis Cup and Olympic gold, this title has so far eluded Andy Murray.
Speaking to Eurosport Italy, the world number two spoke about winning Roland Garros being the next big aim in his career. "To win in Paris would be great considering the surface. This year I am very motivated, this summer is so important. On clay I have been not winning very much, because it's not the surface I prefer, but in the last 18 months things have been changing. I hope to do better this year."
Breakthrough season on the clay
The Brit enjoyed his best ever season on clay last year, 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. With regards to Murray's toughest rivals, it comes as no surprise that this particular match at Roland Garros sticks with him and that Djokovic is his strongest opposition.
Murray's thoughts on his toughest rivals
"In terms of results, Djokovic and Nadal have been the toughest rivals in my career," he said. "Against them, I've won important matches, but I've lost too. In the last two years, Novak has been the world number one without any doubt and the toughest opponent for the rest."
Murray's most recent defeat in fact came at the hands of Nadal in the Monte Carlo semifinals, where the Spaniard secured a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory on route to a ninth title in Monaco. While his run there was a big improvement compared to the shock third round exits he suffered at Indian Wells and Miami, the big test will come for him in the defense of his title in Madrid, where holding onto the crown would really help to state his credentials for capturing the French Open.
Crucial summer coming up for the world number two
The next few months are a crucial time for the British number one as he not only has the French Open on his mind, but also the small matter of defending his title at Queen's, his quest for a second Wimbledon title, a Davis Cup quarterfinal clash in Serbia and the defense of his Olympic title in Rio.
Looking back on his triumph at the Olympic Games in London 2012 Murray has very fond memories. He said: "For me, winning the Olympic gold medal at home was fantastic. It was the most important competition I played. At that time, I had not won any Grand Slam title, it was the highest point I ever reached."
Murray will begin the defense of his title in Madrid next week, with the tournament set to get underway on the 29th of April.