Murray is buoyant in defeat as he gears up for grass
Andy Murray's reaction to defeat late on Friday afternoon was measured and immediate. After correctly acknowledging that, in Nicolas Almagro, he had run into too daunting a clay-court hurdle, the British No 1 wasted no time hauling himself and his tennis gear back to London that same evening, ready to start work this morning on his preparations for Wimbledon.
And, in keeping with his burgeoning confidence, the 21-year-old feels he can do better than his previous best there, the fourth round in 2006. He will have been considerably chuffed by the comments of Mats Wilander, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, who says Murray has the softest hands since John McEnroe. "I believe he can win on any surface, and win big," said Wilander. "Although others may have more strength and hit the ball harder, Andy can do things with the ball that others can't."
To which Murray responded: "If Mats, one of the greats, says that about me I have to start believing it. So many of the greatest players have been nothing but complimentary about my game. Now it is important to get on the grass as quickly as possible. One of the positives from losing today is that it leaves me a decent amount of time to get the best preparation for Queen's and Wimbledon."
Murray feels that, though the five-time champion Roger Federer remains clear favourite at Wimbledon, the tournament will be more open this time. "There are more people who have a chance of winning it. Before, it was just Roger and two or three others; now there is a group of guys who can win, and I am up there with them. Whether that reduces his chances, who knows?"
Apart from a brief spell of Davis Cup duty against Croatia on Wimbledon's Court One last September, it is almost two years since Murray experienced tennis on grass, because of the wrist injury which wrecked his summer schedule in 2007. "I have never not played on it for such a long time," he said, "but I do feel comfortable on the grass while the majority of the top 100 players probably don't like it. I don't know if I'm top four for Wimbledon, though. Obviously Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Roddick have to be the top guys, but I think I'm up there behind them.
"Obviously, winning it is going to be unbelievably tough, but if I can keep up my best game for six, seven matches, then yeah, it's possible.
"Today [against Almagro] I would maybe have beaten 28 or 29 of the others in the last 32. But sometimes guys play better than you at this level. You could come up against [the 6ft 10in Croatian] Ivo Karlovic in Wimbledon's third round, play a great match but lose by a couple of points."
Though Murray's defeat by Almagro was nowhere near that close, his specially hired clay-court adviser, Alex Corretja, said: "Andy lost to someone who has had more wins on clay this year than anyone else. He has learned a lot, not because of me but because he is smart. He had some very good wins on clay and proved he is capable of doing even better in future. He should take good things from this clay-court season, especially this Roland Garros."
As for his own involvement, Corretja said he had enjoyed the experience, his first taste of coaching. Next year perhaps? "We would need to see what's going on with my life by then, but for sure I would be very proud to be asked."
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