Andy Murray has already been wearing his grass-court shoes for nearly a fortnight, but that has not stopped the world No 2 keeping a close eye on the climax of the clay-court season on the other side of the Channel. Murray, who will return to competition in this week's Aegon Championships at Queen's Club after injury kept him out of the French Open, has watched in admiration as two of the players he most respects have reached the final at Roland Garros.
Murray said that David Ferrer, "one of the fittest guys on the tour", would make Rafael Nadal work hard in Paris this afternoon, but stressed: "I think Rafa will be the favourite going into the final providing he recovers well from the semi. He has a very good record against Ferrer. Making his eighth final is incredible and it's something I don't think we'll see again for a very long time in the sport. And he's still got a few years left in him as well. I wouldn't put it past him to be in the final a few more times."
What chance does Ferrer have? "He played very well against Rafa in Madrid and also in Rome," Murray said. "He had chances, that's for sure. But there's something about that court at the French. It's just such a big court and Rafa can create so much angle that it's just very tough for Ferrer. They played in the semis last year and Rafa won very quickly in three sets."
After more than three weeks out of competition Murray will be keen to play as many matches as possible this week. He has been pleased with his recovery from the lower-back problem which forced him to miss Paris, but with the start of Wimbledon only 15 days away he needs to avoid another start at Queen's like last year, when he lost to France's Nicolas Mahut first time out.
If Mahut beats the American Rhyne Williams in this week's first round he will face Murray again in the second. Murray, who has a first-round bye, is seeded to meet Pablo Andujar, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route to a final showdown with Tomas Berdych.
Murray, who has won Queen's twice, said he hoped his enforced break might eventually prove to be a blessing in disguise. "That's the sort of attitude you need to take," he said. "I know after Wimbledon last year I took five or six days off and when I started practising again I felt really comfortable on the grass straight away and that isn't normally the case. Grass takes time to get used to. I've been on the grass for 10 days or so and that's probably a week longer than I would have had if I'd been at the French Open. It's more than I've had the past few years and I've been playing better and better each day in practice, so hopefully it will turn out to be a blessing.'
Four other Britons have wild cards. James Ward, Dan Evans, Ed Corrie and Kyle Edmund face Ivan Dodig, Guido Pella, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Grega Zemlja respectively.
The first significant women's grass-court event is this week's Aegon Classic at Edgbaston. Italy's Roberta Vinci, the world No 11, is the top seed, but much of the attention will be on the Britons in the main draw. Laura Robson and Heather Watson are there on the strength of their world rankings, while Johanna Konta, Anne Keothavong, Mel South and Tara Moore have been given wild cards.
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