On the basis of his recent experiences here, Andy Murray might have been expected to turn around and head straight back home after arriving for this week’s Rome Masters. This was the tournament where the Scot hurt his back 12 months ago, leading to his withdrawal from the French Open, and the omens for this year cannot have looked good on Sunday when the plane on which he was travelling aborted its first landing attempt before touching down safely.
The car which was supposed to be collecting Murray from the airport then did not arrive and when he finally met up with his driver there was the usual testing journey to the tournament venue. “One thing I don’t like is the driving,” Murray said on arrival at the Foro Italico. “I don’t like getting to and from the courts. Driving here feels a bit dangerous to me. It’s very busy. All of the cars have scratches on them.”
In the circumstances, nevertheless, Murray was in a positive frame of mind as he prepared for his final tournament before the French Open, which starts in 13 days’ time. Although his run at last week’s Madrid Masters – his only other clay-court appearance in the build-up to Roland Garros – was cut disappointingly short by what he called “a bad performance” against Santiago Giraldo, Murray insisted: “I’m confident that when the French Open comes round I’ll be playing very good tennis.”
Murray pointed out that as well as his two matches in Madrid he had played four Davis Cup rubbers on clay this year. “I’ve only played one tournament, but I’ve spent enough time over the years practising on clay,” he said.
“Ideally I would get a few more matches in this week, but, regardless, I have said over the years that my goal is to play my best tennis at the Slams. That’s definitely happened the last few years, though it is of benefit to go in there having played enough matches and having played well elsewhere. I certainly didn’t play well in my last match and I want to improve on that this week.”
Following his split with Ivan Lendl, Murray had hoped to have a new coach in place before the busiest period of the year, with Wimbledon coming a fortnight after the French Open. “Ideally I would have someone in place before the two Slams, but I haven’t spoken to anybody yet,” he said.
“I’ve thought about a lot of people. I’ve written down a lot of people and there have also been some people I hadn’t thought of who have contacted management companies or whoever to say they would like to do it. I just need to decide on a couple of people now, speak to them, see how much time they can give and whether I think it can still work, and then move forward from there.”
Asked about the possibility of John McEnroe becoming his coach, Murray said he had always got on well with the American, but added: “I’m aware that he’s very busy himself and I don’t want a six-month job or a one-year job. I want someone who’s going to work for a number of years. That was what I was hoping with Ivan, but he’s also a very busy guy as well. Circumstances change so it’s very important that whoever it is knows that I want it to be a long-term thing.”
Murray’s first opponent here will be the winner of today’s meeting between Marcel Granollers – the Scot’s opponent when he retired hurt last year – and Feliciano Lopez. Thereafter Murray could meet Marin Cilic in the third round and Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
Novak Djokovic, who is confident that he has recovered from the wrist injury that has troubled him for the past month, and Roger Federer are the top seeds in the other half of the draw. However, it remains to be seen whether Federer will play, the Swiss having pulled out of Madrid last week in order to be with his wife, Mirka, for the birth of their second set of twins.