Murray is happy to be back on the green, green grass of Queen's


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The Independent Online

The tennis year moves from clay to grass at the speed of a John Isner serve. No sooner will the French Open be completed than attention will turn to the first significant tournaments of the grass-court season, most notably the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club. With Wimbledon starting a fortnight tomorrow, there is no time to lose as players try to find their feet again on grass.

Andy Murray, right, was playing in the French Open quarter-finals on Wednesday, but yesterday the Scot was at Queen's for his first practice session. "It's great to be back on grass," the world No 4 said. "It's meant a lot to win the title here two out of the last three years. To do well here is always the best possible preparation leading up to Wimbledon."

In the absence of the world's top three players, Murray is the top seed. Rafael Nadal has followed Roger Federer's lead by playing at Halle in Germany this week, while Novak Djokovic is not planning to play in any tournaments before Wimbledon. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Nadal at Queen's last year before losing to Murray in the final, and Janko Tipsarevic are the other top-10 players in west London.

Some of the leading men, including Djokovic, often prefer to play in exhibitions in the week immediately before Grand Slam events. Djokovic played at The Boodles tournament at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire en route to Wimbledon last year and is playing there again next week.

Four Britons have been awarded wild cards at Queen's. James Ward, the world No 142, has a lot of ranking points to defend after reaching the semi-finals last year, and Jamie Baker will hope to continue his rise up the world rankings after recently reaching a career-best No 206. Oliver Golding won the US Open boys title last year, while Liam Broady, runner-up in the junior event at Wimbledon last summer, will be making his debut at main tour level.

Murray has a bye in the first round and will then play either the beaten 2007 finalist, France's Nicolas Mahut, or Spain's Guillermo Garcia Lopez. The talented young Bulgarian, Grigor Dimitrov, could be his third-round opponent, while another Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez, is seeded to meet him in the quarter-finals. Andy Roddick or Gilles Simon could await in the semi-finals.

Ward has been drawn against the ninth seed, South Africa's Kevin Anderson, and Broady takes on the big-serving left-hander, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg. Golding and Baker will meet for the right to face Tsonga.

Wild card Francesca Schiavone will be the top seed at this week's Aegon Classic at Edgbaston. Elena Baltacha, the British No 1 and No 15 seed, will face Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei, while Anne Keothavong, who will become British No 1 tomorrow, plays Austria's Tamira Paszek. Heather Watson faces Paula Ormaechea, of Argentina, and Laura Robson meets one of eight qualifiers.