Clement on guard for Murray run to top 100

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The Independent Online

If hard work is a guide, Murray will be in good company as he duels with the Frenchman Arnaud Clement, both players having already won four matches, including three in the qualifying tournament.

Clement, not the most naturally gifted of players, relies heavily on physical and mental fitness. Forget Henman Hill, the 27-year-old from Aix-en-Provence frequently clocks a respectable time cycling up l'Alpe d'Huez, a location familiar to the likes of Lance Armstrong.

A wrist injury two years threw Clement's career off course and he has since struggled to recover the form that took him to the Australian Open final in 2001. As his frustration grew, he took his older brother, Bruno, on board as his coach. Having prepared well for the start of this season, Clement ran into three defeats by Lleyton Hewitt within five weeks, which did little for his confidence.

Although he defeated Tim Henman in three sets at the Indian Wells Masters in March, his last encounter with a British player ended in a first-round loss to Alex Bogdanovic, 6-3, 7-6, in a lower-level ATP event on a concrete court in Cordoba in June.

Even in qualifying here at Flushing Meadows last week, Clement had to save three match points against Danai Udomchoke, of Thailand.

Desperately in need of inspiration, Clement was superb in his first-round match against Juan Carlos Ferrero, producing his best form for years to defeat the Spanish former world No1 in straight sets.

Ranked No91 at the start of the tournament, Clement took great heart from his display against the ninth-seeded Ferrero and the fact that he no longer had to worry about a place in the main draw at the Australian Open next January.

At the same time, he knows enough about Murray not to take last year's US Open junior champion lightly. "He has a game plan that is impressive, and qualities that will suit hard courts," Clement said in anticipation of a lengthy bout of counter-punching.

Murray, who will take care not to gulp his drink as he did in his first-round match against Andrei Pavel and avoid showing spectators what he had had for lunch, yesterday assessed the task ahead.

"Clement is small, so I think he's going to be quick and consistent around the court," he said. "He is also intelligent, and I'm going to have to play a patient match. I will have to make sure that I don't go for too much too early, and instead wait for the right opportunity. It should be a fun match, as we both like to use angles, but I am taller than him and will probably be hitting the ball harder."

He added: "I haven't been getting myself too fired up at the start of the match and getting tired too early, and it has been pleasing that I have been taking a better mental approach to the matches. I think some of the guys are starting to notice me."

They are. As the 31-year-old Pavel said after losing to Murray on Tuesday: "He played a good match. He has nothing to lose. Next time we will see."

Gilles Muller, the left-hander from Luxembourg who ruined Andy Roddick's 23rd birthday on Tuesday night, succumbed in the second round yesterday to his American doubles partner Robby Ginepri, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. "It wasn't the tennis, it was something in the head," said Muller, who had spent much of his time between matches answering telephone calls from well-wishers.

When the gigantic Arthur Ashe Stadium was opened in 1997, Andre Agassi went up and looked down from the nose-bleed section. "If Michael Chang was playing Marc Rosset down there," Agassi said, "you wouldn't know who was who."

Yesterday, Agassi (5ft 11in) played the Croat Ivo Karlovic (6ft 10in). Both wore blue shirts, white shorts and white caps. The difference was that Agassi won the three tie-breaks, 7-4, 7-5, 7-4.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, of Belgium, the French Open champion, who won the title here in 2003, advanced to the third round of the women's singles with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Maria Sanchez Lorenzo, of Spain.

The seventh-seeded Henin-Hardenne served eight double faults and had her serve broken twice. She also made two more unforced errors than her opponent, but made up for that by hitting 27 winners to the Spaniard's four. Lindsay Davenport, the second seed, who won the title in 1998, also reached round three, defeating Pauline Parmentier, of France, 6-1, 6-1.

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