Murray begins ranking push against Ljubicic
10 February 2009
By Eve Fodens
ANDY Murray is back on court today for the first time since his fourth-round exit at the Australian Open.
The world No 4 will face Ivan Ljubicic in the first round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
Murray will hope to come through a tricky looking opening match as he bids to bounce back from his five-set defeat by eventual semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco in Melbourne.
The Scot went into the year's opening grand slam as the form player following his Qatar Open victory but he could not live up to his favourite's billing.
This week's tournament gives Murray the chance to put that behind him, and he will also hope to gain significant ranking points following his loss in the first round to Dutchman Robin Haase last year.
Indeed, the 21-year-old will view the next few months as an ideal opportunity to put pressure on world No 3 Novak Djokovic, who, unlike Murray, has considerable points to defend. The second seed will be wary of his first-round opponent in Rotterdam, however, having lost two of his three previous matches against Ljubicic.
Their last meeting came in the final of the Qatar Open in 2007, where the Croat triumphed in straight sets, while they shared a victory apiece the previous year. However, Ljubicic has tumbled down the rankings from his career-high position of number three in May 2006 and is currently only just inside the top 50 at 48.
The 29-year-old's last ATP Tour title came in 2007 and he struggled with back injuries last year. Ljubicic pushed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to four sets in the second round of the Australian Open but failed to get past the last 16 in his home event in Zagreb last week, having never previously lost before the final.
Despite his losing record, Murray should be too strong for Ljubicic having improved significantly since their last meeting while the Croat has gone in the other direction. There was disappointment for the Scot yesterday, though, as he and countryman James Auckland lost 6-3, 6-4 to fourth seeds Julian Knowle and Andy Ram in the first round of the doubles.
Rotterdam also sees the return to action of world No 1 Rafael Nadal following his stunning victory over Roger Federer in the Australian Open final.
Nadal and third seed Nikolay Davydenko are in the other half of the draw from Murray along with Tsonga and Gael Monfils, giving the Briton a good chance of reaching the final at least. If victorious today, Murray will face either Andreas Seppi or Thiemo De Bakker in the second round while Gilles Simon, David Ferrer and Robin Soderling are the other seeds in his half.