Gilbert sets out plan for Murray to rule the world

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Brad Gilbert believes that his new charge, Andy Murray, can follow Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick to the top of the men's game.

Gilbert coaxed the best out of his fellow Americans Agassi and Roddick, helping both men to win Grand Slam championships and reach No 1 in the world rankings. He started work with Murray in Los Angeles this week and believes that the 19-year-old Scot has enough natural talent to make significant progress.

"Obviously he wants to climb up the ranking table," said Gilbert. "He's 19 - he's got to improve a lot of things in his game. Time has a way of answering the questions, but obviously I think he has the potential to become a great player."

Murray is the eighth seed at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington DC and the Scot is set to begin his campaign today, against either the Australian Peter Luczak or Ramon Delgado, of Paraguay. Intriguingly, should he reach the quarter-finals then Murray could come up against Agassi.

In their first tournament together, the 44-year-old Gilbert has already made an impression on his new pupil, who is coming off the disappointment of Great Britain's Davis Cup defeat at the hands of Israel.

Murray said: "I've got someone I'm going to listen to, and someone who has got the right knowledge. The stuff he's going to be telling me is right, so I'm really looking forward to the next few weeks to see how much I can improve.

"He's definitely one of the top two or three coaches in the world. He's done a great job with Agassi and obviously Roddick as well. He was a very good player himself and he's got a lot of knowledge about the game, a lot of experience. It's the perfect fit for me."

Roddick's withdrawal from the Legg Mason Classic stole the spotlight from the Russian former world No 1 Marat Safin, who battled to 6-3, 7-6 first-round victory over Igor Kunitsyn.

Roddick was forced out of the hard-court event with the strained lower back he injured at the Los Angeles Open last week, but the American is confident of being back to full strength for the US Open at the end of this month.

Safin, a former US Open champion, needed 81 minutes and an 8-6 tie-break victory to dispose of Kunitsyn in an all-Russian first-round encounter. Without a title this season, Safin displayed some of his old formidable power, blasting 10 aces past Kunitsyn to push his match record for the season to 14-13.

In other first-round action in Washington, the American qualifier Ryan Sweeting, ranked 663rd in the world and playing in his first ATP-level event, showed few signs of nerves in posting a 7-6, 6-2 upset victory over his countryman Justin Gimelstob.

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