Murray’s High Expectations

Despite two early tournament exits last month, Andy Murray enters the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and the 2016 clay-court season expecting strong results on the surface.

Murray has grown more comfortable on clay through the years and especially during the past 12 months. The World No. 2 usually spends nine to 10 months exclusively on hard courts and, in past years, has struggled to transition to clay. But during the past 12 months, Murray has practised and played on clay more than usual, including before and during the Davis Cup final last November.

“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 said on Sunday during his pre-tournament press conference. “There’s no reason why I can’t have a good clay-court season.”

His past success on the surface also boosts his expectations. Last year on clay, Murray won the BMW Open by FWU AG in Munich and the Mutua Madrid Open, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. The World No. 2 also made the semi-finals at Roland Garros before losing to Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1. At the three events, Murray earned wins over Roberto Bautista Agut, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.

“Last year was definitely my best year on clay,” Murray said. “It was the first time I’ve had good wins on clay against the best players.”

This year, after a final showing at the Australian Open and two Davis Cup wins, Murray’s level has dipped. He lost in the third round in Indian Wells to World No. 53 Federico Delbonis 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3). In Miami, where Murray has a home and has won two titles, the Brit fell in the third round again, this time to Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-3.

“Obviously the past few weeks have been tough for me,” Murray said. “It’s very difficult to perform at the highest level every single week.”

There were positives from his early Miami loss. Murray stayed a few extra days and jump-started his transition to clay.

This week will mark Murray’s first Monte-Carlo appearance since 2013. In the past, he said, he’s skipped the event to feel more comfortable on clay before playing matches. Now that he’s feeling better on the surface, he hopes his Monte-Carlo results change as well. He’s made the semi-finals two times (2009, 2011) but lost to Rafael Nadal in both instances. In 2013, Murray fell to Stan Wawrinka in the third round.

This year, Murray, the No. 2 seed, receives a first-round bye and will play either qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France or Argentine Guido Pella.

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