Murray puts in the hours in search for lost form

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There are few players with as great an appetite for hard work as Andy Murray and the Scot will go into this week's Rome Masters refreshed by a spell of intensive training. Having spent a week practising in Barcelona after suffering a third successive defeat when making an early exit from Monte Carlo, Murray said yesterday that he felt in better shape than he had going into his first clay-court tournament of the season.

"I hit a lot of balls in Barcelona and got in some good training," the world No 5 said. "My confidence obviously isn't as high as it was at the start of the year, but everyone goes through tough periods.

"I've been on the tour for a long time and I've seen better players than me struggle worse than I am. It depends what it does to you. For me it's made me want to practise harder, go to the gym more, and that's only a positive thing."

Murray is not setting himself any targets this week other than "being myself on the court". He explained: "Last year I didn't play my best every week. I played a lot of bad matches and came through them, just through fighting and thinking and playing smart. That's what I've got to start doing again, but I know that it will come. If I'm playing great in practice then it will.

This week's draw, at a tournament where Murray has won only one match in four visits, is tough. He first plays the home nation's top player, Andreas Seppi, who beat Fabio Fognini 6-0, 6-3 yesterday. The world No 49 is comfortable on clay, though he has failed to win a set in losing three times to Murray in the last 14 months.

The winner will probably face David Ferrer in the third round, with another top Spanish clay-courter, Juan Carlos Ferrero, or France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga a likely quarter-final opponent.

Roger Federer, who is making his first clay-court appearance of the year, and Rafael Nadal, who won his first title for 11 months in Monte Carlo, could meet in the semi-finals. Federer sympathised with the current difficulties experienced by Murray and Novak Djokovic, who both failed to find their usual form in Indian Wells and Miami.

"I was always very impressed with how well they played in every tournament on hard courts," Federer said. "Every Masters they got to semi-finals with ease, and I know how hard that is to do."


Andy Murray has lost his opening match at his last three tournaments