Andy Murray needs feats on clay to seize world No 1 crown from Novak Djokovic

The British number one is currently ranked second in the world

Monte Carlo

Andy Murray insisted yesterday that the world No 1 ranking was "not something I think about on a daily basis", but as the Scot prepares for his first clay-court tournament of the year here at the Monte Carlo Masters he knows that the next eight weeks are likely to be vital if he is to replace Novak Djokovic at the summit.

By his own standards Murray had a moderate clay-court season last year, when he was troubled by a back injury, while Djokovic reached three finals. The upside for Murray is that the 2013 clay campaign gives him an outstanding chance of making up ground in the rankings, particularly as Djokovic has fitness issues.

The world No 1 hurt an ankle eight days ago while playing in the Davis Cup and although he has been practising here since Friday, he said it was by no means certain that he would be fit to play his opening match on Wednesday. He admitted he would not be making such strenuous efforts to compete if he did not live just down the road from the Monte Carlo Country Club.

Murray, who will meet the Dutchman Robin Haase or France's Edouard Roger-Vasselin in his opening match after a first-round bye, has a tough draw. Although the world No 2 is seeded to meet Djokovic in the final, in order to get there he might have to beat Stanislas Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Rafael Nadal, who is seeking to win the title for the ninth year in a row.

Nevertheless, Murray goes into the clay-court season in much better shape physically than 12 months ago. A back problem, which had troubled him since the start of 2012 and forced him to withdraw from the Madrid Masters, led to his having eight pain-killing injections before the French Open, where he suffered severe back spasms.

"I've felt much better the last few days than I did coming into Monte Carlo last year," Murray said. "I think it's something that will always be with me. [I need to do] the right exercises, have the right treatment, the right amount of rest and not do anything silly or play other sports. I used to play a lot of football and golf. I've stopped all of that now and the back has been better."

Although Murray's results on clay last year were modest as he struggled with his back, his performances in 2011, when he reached the semi-finals here, in Rome and at Roland Garros, showed what he is capable of on the surface he finds the most challenging.

"It's the movement that's been the thing I've needed to improve most on the clay, and I feel like I'm moving better this year," Murray said. "I feel good."

As for the world rankings Murray insisted: "I'm not preparing this week to try to get to No 1, I'm preparing to try to win Monte Carlo. That's a big challenge for me."

Murray had a late night here on Saturday, but he was not out on the town. Instead he was following coverage of the men's doubles final at the US Clay-Court Championship in Houston, where his older brother Jamie won his first title for 18 months. Jamie and the Australian John Peers defeated Americans Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's No 1 doubles pair, 1-6, 7-6, 12-10.

"I tried to stay up," the reigning US Open champion said. "I went to bed at 2-2 in the second set. I just sent him a message in the second set saying: 'Whatever happens, it's been a great week. I'm thinking of you.' Then I woke up at five in the morning and saw that he had won. It was great.

"He struggled for a little while and to win a match like that against probably the best doubles team ever is a huge win for him."

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible