November 03, 2004
Improving Murray rising to challenge
From Neil Harman Tennis Correspondent in Paris
ANDY MURRAY took a set from Carlos Moyà on clay in Spain yesterday. It might have been only a practice set, but Moyà is a former French Open champion, has been No 1 in the world and even if his shoulder was not quite strong enough to play in the BNP Paribas Masters here this week, he is getting in trim for the Masters Cup and the Davis Cup final in the next month. These people do not practise for kicks.
Murray, Britain’s first US Open junior singles champion, has been back at the Emilio Sánchez-Sergio Casal ranch in Barcelona, his base outside Scotland, for the past ten days, building up his power and his contacts — he also hit with Guillermo Coria, the Argentinian who is acknowledged as the world’s finest clay-court player, yesterday — before tackling an arduous trip to Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia for a series of Challenger events.
His mentor on the tour is Pato Alvarez, the Colombian who has coached any number of players into the top 50, Sánchez included. “His track record says that, statistically, he is one of the best coaches ever,” Murray said. “It is just a short-term situation, but it’s good to know he’s on my side.”
Murray’s progress from junior to senior — he is ranked No 505 in the world — will be measured against his contemporaries and, given the extraordinary feats of Gaël Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the French youngsters, in their first Masters event on home soil — that measurement is compelling. Tsonga was granted a day’s rest after defeating Mario Ancic, the Wimbledon semi-finalist from Croatia, but Monfils, having beaten Thomas Enqvist on Monday, was ushered back out to face Lleyton Hewitt, who had not played for more than a month, a rest period interrupted by a call from Kim Clijsters breaking off their engagement.
Monfils slugged it out for all his 18-year-old worth against the former world No 1. Some of the shot-making was breathtaking — at one stage Monfils replicated the trademark Clijsters splits shot that must have been unnerving for his opponent — but having gone ahead in the second-set tie-break, carelessness and exhaustion overcame him and he lost 6-3, 7-6.
Tsonga — who is a year older than Murray — beat Moyà in Beijing last month and has risen to No 179 in the Champions race. He and Monfils, who won the first three junior grand-slam titles this year before Murray’s triumph in New York, are lithe and strong. They have a natural flair and expression for the game; they are going to be stars for certain.
Murray noted their results. “It’s very impressive, but I’d be even more impressed if they could do it on slow outdoor clay,” he said. “They have big serves, they’re terrific athletes, but I’ve beaten both of them, so that’s a confidence boost for me. If they can do it, so can I.”
Murray will not fail for the want of self-confidence and he feels that he is getting stronger, having come through a series of tests on his physique and development with flying colours. He will miss the Australian Open juniors in January to play a series of satellite events in Spain — “always the strongest satellites of the year because there are so many experienced players getting their clay-court miles in,” he said.
take about over-hype