Andy Murray takes time out to prepare for French Open

Scot looking for improvements in his clay-court game ahead of Roland Garros

tennis correspondent

Andy Murray knows that clay is his most challenging surface but as the Scot's thoughts turn to the European clay-court season he sees no reason to believe he cannot win the French Open. While the next nine weeks offer a good opportunity to rebuild his ranking following his fall to No 8 in the world – his lowest position for six years – Murray will go to Roland Garros next month with loftier ambitions.

"The best opportunity that the French Open brings is the opportunity to win another Grand Slam," Murray said. "That's what will be motivating me over the next three or four weeks to train hard and get in the gym and work to get physically ready."

He added: "The French is the only Slam I haven't made the final of. That's something I would obviously like to achieve before the end of my career. I made the semis once and a couple of quarters so it's certainly not impossible, but I'll definitely need to make some improvements."

After more than four months of globetrotting Murray is taking a break from competition. There is still work to be done – he was at Queen's Club today for the launch of this year's Aegon Championships and will meet his management team today to discuss his coaching situation following his split with Ivan Lendl – but for the moment his rackets are staying in the bag.

In a fortnight's time, however, Murray will head to Valencia for a two-week training block at the start of his busiest period of the year. His next tournament will be the Madrid Masters early next month. Thereafter he will have only two weeks away from competition before Wimbledon finishes in early July.

"I haven't been able to do loads of training and if you want to go far over the French Open and Wimbledon period you need to be in good shape physically," he said. "This will be a good time to build it up and also to work on some things. When you're playing matches it's hard to work on any little technical things, or things that you're not that comfortable with."

The clay-court season was almost a non-event for Murray last year as he retired mid-match in Rome with a back injury and then pulled out of the French Open. Playing on clay aggravated his back problem and led to his decision to have surgery in September.

The Scot has since come through two Davis Cup ties on clay but is taking nothing for granted. "Once you have back issues, it's something you have to monitor," he said. "But I've been doing OK this year. I would have liked it to have been perfect, but I have to accept it's not going to be that way. I'll be interested to see how it responds to a couple of weeks' hard training."

Hutchins rallies aid for Baltacha at Queen's

Ross Hutchins, the new tournament director at the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club in London, said that he was hoping to do something at this year's event to support Elena Baltacha, the former British No 1, who is being treated for liver cancer.

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl played in a "Rally Against Cancer" exhibition match after last year's final which raised thousands for The Royal Marsden, which treated Hutchins following his diagnosis with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Paul Newman

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