Andy Murray back to business with hard work ahead
It will be many a year before it becomes a distant memory, but for the moment Andy Murray is putting his Wimbledon triumph behind him. The tennis treadmill rarely stops turning and Murray, along with most of the other leading men, will be jumping on it again at this week's Montreal Masters.
Four weeks after ending Britain's 77-year wait for a men's singles Wimbledon champion, Murray returns to action in what has always been one of his favourite parts of the year. The North American hard-court circuit has been the scene of many of the 26-year-old Scot's greatest moments, including his maiden Grand Slam victory at last summer's US Open.
The year's final Grand Slam tournament begins three weeks tomorrow, but there is plenty of serious competition before then. The Masters Series tournaments at Montreal and Cincinnati, which are played back-to-back, are significant events in their own right as well as perfect preparation for Flushing Meadows.
The world's top four players – Novak Djokovic, Murray, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal – have all taken a break since Wimbledon. Murray, who went on holiday to the Bahamas, had contemplated an earlier return, but the world No 2 has a gruelling schedule ahead of him between now and the middle of October. With tournaments in Montreal, Cincinnati, New York, Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai, plus Britain's Davis Cup tie away to Croatia, the Scot is likely to be playing in eight of the next 10 weeks.
Murray has a good record in Canada, where the Masters Series event is played in Toronto and Montreal in alternate years. He has won the tournament at both venues, having beaten Juan Martin del Potro in the final in Montreal four years ago and both Nadal and Roger Federer en route to victory in Toronto 12 months later.
This week the Scot will need to be on his game from the start. After a first-round bye he faces either Spain's Marcel Granollers, who was on the other side of the net when Murray retired with a back problem in Rome three months ago, or the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who has been one of the outstanding players in the first half of the year. Granollers won the fourth singles title of his career yesterday when he recovered from a poor first set to beat Juan Monaco 0-6 7-6 6-4 in the final of the Austrian Open at Kitzbuhel.
In the third round Murray is seeded to meet the tricky Italian, Fabio Fognini, though he could also play the hard-hitting Latvian, Ernests Gulbis, or the big-serving Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. Del Potro or Milos Raonic are possible quarter-final opponents, while Ferrer or Tomas Berdych could provide semi-final opposition.
Djokovic and Nadal are seeded to meet in the other semi-final. Djokovic, like Murray, has also enjoyed great success on hard courts over the years, having won five of his six Grand Slam titles on the surface and played in his first Grand Slam final at the 2007 US Open. Nadal, meanwhile, will be keen to confirm his fitness, having appeared to struggle with his perennially troublesome knees when losing to the unheralded Belgian Steve Darcis at Wimbledon.
The most significant absentee in Montreal will be Federer, who celebrates his 32nd birthday this week. Having suffered his earliest exit from Wimbledon for 11 years when he was beaten by Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round, Federer has played in the interim, but suffered with a recurrent back problem in Hamburg and Gstaad and has pulled out of this week's tournament. The world No 5 will hope to return in Cincinnati, where he might need to retain his title in order to avoid sliding further down the world rankings.
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