Andy Murray was beaten in the final of the Moselle Open in Metz yesterday but the 20-year-old Scot headed for Moscow last night in good spirits. Although Murray lost 6-0, 2-6, 3-6 to Tommy Robredo, he has enjoyed his best week on the tour for seven months and should go into the Kremlin Cup, the second tournament of his five-event autumn campaign, with renewed confidence.
Having had a miserable summer, particularly after suffering a wrist injury that kept him out of the French Open and Wimbledon, Murray has seen his fortunes take a sharp turn for the better since making his comeback in August. He followed a good run to the third round of the US Open by helping Britain to victory over Croatia in the Davis Cup and then reaching the Metz final, his first since successfully defending his San Jose title in California in February.
For a while it seemed that Murray would round off his week in perfect style, winning yesterday's first set in just 23 minutes. Robredo, however, broke Murray's serve in the opening games of the second and third sets before sealing victory in an hour and 52 minutes. "The lesson to learn is that you mustn't ease the pressure after winning a set easily," Murray said. "However, it has been a good week."
The San Jose titles remain Murray's only tournament victories. He has now been beaten in four finals, having also lost in Bangkok in 2005, Washington in 2006 and Doha earlier this year.
There is certainly no loss of face in losing to Robredo, who is ranked No 9 in the world and has now won three tournaments this year following his victories in Auckland and Beijing. The Spaniard had won his only previous match against Murray, in Las Vegas last year, in straight sets.
Having made such a promising start to the year, reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, winning in San Jose and making the semi-finals of successive Masters series tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, Murray played only eight matches on tour in the following six months. After hurting his hip, knee and ankle in a fall in California, Murray damaged his groin in Miami, his back in Monte Carlo and his wrist in Hamburg.
Murray dropped only one set en route to the final in Metz, against Janko Tipsarevic in the first round. He next beat Michael Llodra, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and, in the semi-finals, Guillermo Canas, striking a psychological blow in advance of Britain's World Group Davis Cup tie against Argentina in February. Last week was the first time Murray has won more than two matches in a row on the Tour since March.
The win should give Murray a small lift in the rankings. He is currently No 18 in the world, having fallen from a career-high position of No 8 earlier this summer. Murray does not have many ranking points to defend in the next few weeks and will be hoping in particular to be in the world's top 16 in time for the Australian Open in January, which would ensure he would not meet any of the top players in the first three rounds.
The Kremlin Cup in Moscow offers $1m in prize money, more than double what was available in Metz, although the field is not as strong as it has been in the past. Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny are the top two seeds, with Marat Safin also a strong contender.
In the first round Murray plays another Russian, 19-year-old Evgeny Korolev, who is ranked No 86 in the world and shares the same agent as the Scot in Patricio Apey. The winner will meet Sergio Roitman or Tipsarevic.