Murray hopes fast Madrid courts can hone game for Roland Garros

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The Independent Online

The best that could be said about Andy Murray's first appearance at the Madrid Masters yesterday was that it did at least give him some competitive time on court. The 23-year-old Scot teamed up with his brother, Jamie, only to lose 6-2, 6-2 in just 55 minutes to the Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the first round of the doubles.

Today, after a first-round bye, the world No 4 plays his opener in the singles against Gilles Simon, who beat Ivan Ljubicic 7-5, 7-6 in the first round. Although past form suggests Murray has the advantage – he has won five of his six meetings with the Frenchman, the most recent in Monte Carlo last month – Simon performs well on clay.

The surface presents Murray with his biggest challenge, although he enjoys competing on it. A former French Open quarter-finalist, the Scot has twice reached the quarter-finals on clay in Madrid. He is also the only player to have taken a set off Rafael Nadal on the Spaniard's favourite surface this year, having done so in the Monte Carlo semi-finals.

"I love playing on clay," Murray said. "I think it's one of my best surfaces, even though my results haven't been as consistent. I've played very few tournaments on clay compared to hard courts and indoors. I think if I played more on clay my results would be similar. It's a surface I need a bit of time to practise on. It's not a surface that comes naturally to me because it's not a surface that I play on for 10 and a half months of the year, but I like it.

"It suits my game well. I just have to be patient and work hard on it and accept that at the beginning of the clay-court season I may not be feeling my best but that I can improve and by the French Open be playing good tennis, which I have done the last few years."

With the French Open starting in 18 days' time, Murray will be hoping for as much time on court as possible both in the Spanish capital and at next week's Rome Masters. He has won just two matches in five visits to Rome but has a decent record in Madrid, where his game is better suited to the faster conditions. Murray also won the Madrid Masters in the last year it was played on an indoor hard court in 2008, beating Simon in the final.

Viktor Troicki, the world No 15 and a possible third-round opponent for Murray, lost 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 yesterday to Germany's Florian Mayer, who now meets Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci. In the other half of the draw Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro maintained his good run after his comeback from injury, beating Mikhail Youzhny, the world No 13, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Del Potro could meet Nadal in the third round.

Caroline Wozniacki, the women's world No 1, reached the last 16 in Madrid by beating Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski 6-4, 6-4. The Dane, who now faces Dinara Safina or Julia Goerges, broke serve five times, though she dropped her own serve on three occasions.

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