The Stretch That Changed Murray On Clay
Looking at his FedEx ATP Win/Loss Record, it’d be easy to assume Andy Murray started feeling more comfortable on clay last year, when the Scot won a personal-best 18 matches and lost only three on the red dirt. But on day one of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the Scot said his successful transformation into one of the best clay-court players actually began in 2015.
Two years ago, Murray had never won a clay-court event. But that year he set a goal to take home a clay-court title and he arranged his schedule to help make it happen.
For the first time, Murray entered a smaller clay-court tournament, the BMW Open by FWU in Munich, an ATP World Tour 250 event. The Scot captured the title and accrued the self-belief that comes with winning four consecutive matches, including wins against home favourite Philipp Kohlschreiber and Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
The next week, Murray doubled his goal and won his second clay-court crown, the Mutua Madrid Open, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. In Spain, the Scot secured wins against Kei Nishikori in the semi-final and Rafael Nadal in the final.
“[Munich] gave me a lot of confidence. After that, I won Madrid the next week and believed a bit more that I could win the big competitions on this surface,” Murray said during his pre-tournament press conference in Monte-Carlo.
His success more than followed him into the 2016 clay-court season. Murray reached the Monte-Carlo semi-final, the Madrid final, won his first Rome title and made his maiden Roland Garros title match.
From 2005-14, Murray had gone 63-37 on clay, a winning percentage of 63 per cent. Since then, he’s won 90 per cent of his clay-court matches (35-4), and is only two wins shy of his 100th clay-court match victory.
“Obviously last year was a better season on clay but I feel like that started in 2015,” Murray said. “I just feel way more comfortable moving on it now… I spent lots of time on it in 2014, 2015.”
The Scot leads the field this week in Monte-Carlo, the first time he’s been the top seed at the Masters 1000 tournament. He’ll also be going for another first this week: His first title in the Principality. Murray has reached the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo three times – 2009, 2011, 2016 – but never the final.
The 29 year old is currently fifth all-time with 14 Masters 1000 titles. The “Big Four” of himself, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Nadal have won 58 of the past 63 Masters 1000 tournaments going back to Nadal’s 2010 Monte-Carlo crown.
Murray will be playing in his first tournament since the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last month. He missed the Miami Open presented by Itau with an elbow injury.
The World No. 1 is looking for his second title of the season after winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships last month. “Building through the rest of the clay-court season, my expectations are pretty high,” Murray said.