'Murray on his way to world No 2'

Verdasco predicts Scot's form and confidence will see him overtake Federer

Andy Murray is playing down his chances of success in the clay-court season, but Fernando Verdasco, one of only two players to have beaten him this year, has little doubt about the Scot's longer-term prospects. "If things carry on as they are I think for sure he will finish this year as world No 2," the Spaniard said here yesterday.

Murray has never won more than two matches in succession on clay, but has the perfect incentive to improve that record over the next two months. Starting here with this week's Monte Carlo Masters, the traditional start to the European outdoor season, he has an outstanding chance of overhauling Novak Djokovic as world No 3 and might even replace Roger Federer at No 2.

The game's top four players have pulled away to such an extent that Murray, the world No 4, has almost twice as many ranking points as Juan Martin del Potro, the No 5, but within the elite group there are clearly two men at the top of their game and two who are not. While Rafael Nadal and Murray go from strength to strength, Federer has been losing consistently to both men and Djokovic has been struggling to recover the form that took him to last year's Australian Open title.

Verdasco, who produced one of the surprises of the year when he beat Murray in Melbourne in January, says the Scot is the player who bears best comparison with Nadal.

"Right now Rafa and Andy are the two best players," Verdasco said. "Andy's first serve is better than Rafa's, though I think Rafa has the better second serve. On the baseline Andy has an unbelievable backhand. The better you play against him the better he plays.

"Defensively, he and Rafa are the best two players and when he needs to play an approach to the net and volley he has a very good touch. He's a complete player and right now he's so strong mentally. He believes in himself so much and believes that he can beat everyone. I think that's the difference with him this year.

"We've only had three months of the season, but if he keeps playing the same way I think he will be No 2 at the end of the year. Everybody saw at the beginning of the year how strong he is."

Djokovic is just 170 ranking points ahead of Murray, though the Scot will have to reach at least the semi-finals here to catch him this week; because of a quirk in the schedule, next week's updated ranking list will include the players' points from both Monte Carlo this year and 2008. In a fortnight's time, however, when Djokovic will lose the 450 points he won here last year and Murray will drop just 150, the Scot is likely to move ahead.

Murray insisted that the ranking position was not uppermost in his mind. "If I keep winning then my ranking is going to go up," he said. "If I focus on each match, like I did in the States, just one match at a time and don't get ahead of myself, there is a good chance I'll get to No 3."

In his opening match today Murray meets Victor Hanescu, the world No 35. He has never played the 27-year-old Romanian, who beat Spain's Alberto Martin 6-2, 6-3 in yesterday's first round.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London