Andy Murray was rebuilding bridges here yesterday. The British No 1's comments last week about corruption in tennis, which he says were taken out of context, did not go down well with some of his colleagues, but on the eve of the Madrid Masters he quickly made peace with one of his most notable critics.
After flying into the Spanish capital on Saturday night, Murray took the opportunity to make it clear to Rafael Nadal that he had never suggested that match-fixing and illegal gambling were rife within the sport. The world No 2, reacting to initial reports that Murray had said that "everyone knows that it's going on", said last week that the 20-year-old Scot had "gone overboard" and that he was sure "there are no fixed games."
"I spoke to Rafa," Murray said yesterday. "We were joking about it. I explained the whole situation. He understands. He has been around the press a long time and it's easy for them to change words and not report the questions that have been put to you and just put the answers in. He thought that maybe I was annoyed with him because he had called me 'stupid', but it's fine."
Murray, who will meet representatives of the Association of Tennis Professionals here tomorrow to discuss his comments, added: "I know what I said and I've spoken to a couple of other players about it. I don't think what I said is as big an issue as has been made out. It was taken out of context. I never once said that players fix matches or that players were directly involved in betting on matches. I did say there was a lot of betting in tennis and everyone knows that it's going up."
Pointing out that some players had said publicly that they had been invited to throw matches, Murray added: "Nobody has been found guilty. I don't think that tennis matches have been fixed. I never said that."
Another player who criticised Murray for his comments was Nikolay Davydenko, whose match against Martin Vassallo Arguello in Poland two months ago helped to spark the current controversy after an online gambling company reported suspicious betting patterns. Asked whether he had talked to Davydenko, Murray replied: "I don't really want to speak to him."
Murray welcomed moves by the sport's major ruling bodies to establish a joint "integrity unit" to investigate claims of corruption. "The amount of money that has been bet on some matches has made people take notice," he said. "Every single player wants to play in a clean sport and what they are trying to set up will definitely ensure that."
Murray could meet Nadal again later this week if all goes to plan. Provided the Scot beats Radek Stepanek and Juan Ignacio Chela in his first two matches here – and both matches promise to be tough – he should meet Nadal in the third round, although the Spaniard's progress is by no means a foregone conclusion, with Marcos Baghdatis his likely second-round opponent. Murray has met Nadal only once before on the senior circuit, losing a five-set thriller in this year's Australian Open, and if they do face each other here the Scot may fancy his chances.
Nadal's season is following a similar pattern to last year, when he swept all-comers aside in the clay-court season, reached the Wimbledon final but went nine months without a tournament win before lifting the Indian Wells title in February this year. Hampered by tendinitis in both knees, Nadal went out of last month's US Open in the fourth round to David Ferrer and has not played since. When asked about the state of his knees, Nadal did not sound optimistic. "We'll see after I've played my first match," he said.
Murray, meanwhile, is hoping that his own injury problems are behind him. Having had his summer ruined by damaged tendons in his wrist, he began a five-tournament autumn run by reaching the final in Metz last weekend before losing to Tommy Robredo. Although he was beaten by Janko Tipsarevic in the second round in Moscow last week, Murray will go into the season's final two Masters series tournaments, here and in Paris in a fortnight's time, fresher than nearly all his rivals.
Stepanek, however, has been rediscovering his form following major injury problems, climbing back to No 35 in the world after sinking to No 127 only three months ago. "He played really well on the US hard court stretch,"Murray said. "He won a tournament in Los Angeles and had a really good match against [Novak] Djokovic at the US Open. He's a tricky player. He uses a lot of slice, serves and volleys and changes the pace well. It will be a difficult match."
Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt, who have knee and ankle injuries respectively, are the only two of the world's top 20 players missing from the field.