Climb to the top leaves Murray in a New York state of mind

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The Independent Online

Twelve months ago Andy Murray, the world No 122, spent the week before the US Open playing in the qualifying competition. When this year's tournament gets under way here on Monday the 19-year-old Scot will be the No 17 seed and, according to British bookmakers, the fourth or fifth favourite for the title.

A run of 18 wins in his past 23 matches has lifted Murray to No 19 in the world, but it was his victory over Roger Federer in Cincinnati last week that put him in the ranks of those players considered capable of challenging for the game's biggest prizes.

"After I beat Roger I maybe got a little bit more respect from the other players," Murray said after a practice session on one of the outside courts here at Flushing Meadows. "I always believed that I could beat anybody. It was just a question of doing it on a more consistent basis.

"I think I've proved over the last two-and-a-half months that I can do that. My results have been consistent, but winning against Federer doesn't happen too often. I was lucky in that he probably didn't play his best that day, but nobody else this year except Rafael Nadal has beaten him, even when he's not been playing his best."

Murray had targeted a place in the top 20 by the end of this year but is already looking to the next stage. "It's good to be in that list, but I'd obviously like to be closer to the top of the top 20," he said. "I do have to win a lot of matches now to push my ranking up and it's only going to get harder to do it. I need to perform better and more consistently in the Masters series and the Grand Slams, which I didn't do at the start of the year.

"Not too many guys can say they've got into the top 20. I think the next level of respect is when you get into the top 10. Then you're talking about getting into Grand Slam finals and winning Grand Slam tournaments."

Nevertheless, Murray goes into the next fortnight aiming to be realistic. He starts against a qualifier and should reach the last 32, when he is scheduled to meet Fernando Gonzalez, the No 10 seed.

"I just want to achieve what my seeding is supposed to get me to do and that's get to the third round," Murray said. "I suppose anything after that is a bonus. I got to the second round last year, so if I make the third round this year then it's obviously a better effort. Of course, I'd rather go further, but I don't want to set any unrealistic goals."

Has he been surprised by his rapid progress? "Not at all. I always knew that I was good enough. Regardless of what anybody else says, if you think you've got a chance of doing it then you are going to get much closer than if you don't believe it yourself.

"I always stayed positive even though I went on a bad run for a few months. I'm sure a lot of people would have started to get negative, but I worked hard and I got through it and now I'm sitting here seeded 17 at my favourite Grand Slam of the year."

Murray has not made any changes to his game since starting to work last month with Brad Gilbert, but is already drawing significant benefit from his new coach's expertise.

"Because I was on my own for a long time, it was difficult to scout my opponents and maybe get my tactics spot on," Murray said. "I was going into matches and maybe taking five or six games to feel out my opponent. Now I go into a match and Brad has scouted my opponent. I know my tactics going into the match and what my opponent's strengths and weaknesses are, so I can start attacking their weaknesses from the first point."

Murray says he and Gilbert have "had a laugh pretty well ever since the first two or three days". He explained: "After I'd won my first match in Washington I relaxed a bit. I didn't want to start working with him and go out in the first round of my first tournament and maybe disappoint him.

"But I played well in Washington and I think he's been happy with everything I've done. My tennis has been really good and I've worked hard. I don't think he could complain about my attitude. I've fought hard in all my matches."

Not that the two men always agree. "He doesn't like my taste in music," Murray said. The Scot enjoys rap, while Gilbert prefers the likes of Foreigner and Tom Petty. "He just likes old stuff," Murray said. "I don't mind his taste in music, but he doesn't like mine."

Josh Goodall, the 20-year-old British No 8, earned a place in the US Open when he defeated France's Michael Llodra 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in the final round of qualifying last night. Goodall, who is the world No 262, joins Murray, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski in the main draw, giving Britain four male players in the competition for the first time for six years. Venus Williams has withdrawn from the women's singles competition because of a wrist injury.