Murray plots aggressive path after Nadal defeat

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The Independent Online

When asked to identify the areas of his game that he needed to improve in the wake of his quarter-final defeat to Rafael Nadal here on Wednesday night Andy Murray was typically frank in his assessment.

"I think I need to make sure, when I'm playing against the top guys, that I dictate more of the rallies right at the start," he said. "When I make a big first serve, I really need to be aggressive from the first ball, rather than waiting a couple of shots. The top guys can make you do a lot of running if you're a bit passive at the start of the rallies."

The remarks sounded familiar, for this was what another player had said about the 21-year-old Scot four months ago: "He's going to have to grind very hard for the next few years if he's going to keep playing this way. He stands way back in the court. He has to do a lot of running and he tends to wait a lot for his opponent to make a mistake. I think that overall, over a 15-year career, you want to look to win a point more often than wait for the other guy to miss."

The latter verdict, remarkably similar to Murray's own, was delivered by Roger Federer after the world No 1 had lost to him in Dubai. When told of Federer's comments Murray was keen at the time to stress that it was important to have different strategies against different players. In particular he pointed out that he had adopted a much more aggressive approach when he had pushed Nadal all the way in a five-set thriller at the 2007 Australian Open.

Murray went into his meeting with the Spaniard here determined to do the same, only to find himself pegged back by the sheer weight of Nadal's shots. Attacking the world No 2 is much easier said than done, particularly when your own serve is faltering, but even when Murray did have the chance to take control of rallies he sometimes chose the more conservative option.

The British No 1 can beat the vast majority of players with the sheer variety of his shots, but against the very best he needs to find a way of upping his game. Although he beat Federer in Dubai (when the Swiss was recovering from glandular fever), Murray has not taken a set off Nadal or Novak Djokovic in the three matches he has played against each in the last 16 months.

However, not many players get the better of the world's top three, who have opened up a big gap with the rest, and Murray should look back on his 2008 Wimbledon with pride. Three emphatic wins were followed by a brilliant back-from-the-dead victory over Richard Gasquet and in reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final Murray gave every sign that he will be a major Wimbledon contender for years to come.

"I've got to try and be positive about the whole two weeks," Murray said. "I got further than my ranking and seeding suggested. I'm going to be back in the top 10 at the end of this week, which is something that I felt I was good enough to do, and now I've got to try and stay there."

Murray can be particularly pleased with the way he has handled the pressure as Britain's only world-class singles player. Not only has he stood up to the intense public scrutiny, but the way he pumped up the Centre Court crowd en route to victory over Gasquet also showed that he can use their support to his advantage.

"For me it's been the least stressful Wimbledon, the most enjoyable one that I've had," Murray said. "I got awesome support in all of my matches. Once the tournament started, everything to me was absolutely fine. It's just something you've got to deal with. I think the older you get, the better you learn to cope with everything. This was definitely the best Wimbledon I've had so far. I'm sure next year I'll be able to do even better."

Within a day or two Murray will be back on the practice courts in preparation for the Olympic Games and US Open. The American hard-court circuit is his favourite part of the year and he plans to play in Indianapolis, Toronto and Cincinnati before heading for New York.

"I do feel more comfortable playing on the American hard courts," he said. "It's still my favourite surface to play on. I've had some of my best results on those courts. I think I have a chance at winning Wimbledon, but the US Open's always been the one that I felt was best suited to my game."

Beyond New York, Murray will have his sights set on winning a place in the elite eight-man field for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. Qualification is based on performances through the calendar year and his Wimbledon points should take him into the top eight. The future looks bright.