Until recently you would expect to see the letters "Q" or "WC" against Andy Murray's name in the main draw for tournaments. The 18-year-old Briton was happy to play alongside the big guns as a qualifier or wild card, but this week a "Q" is against the name of his first opponent in the Pacific Life Open in the Californian desert resort of Indian Wells.
Having climbed to No 44 in the world rankings, Murray automatically wins a place in one of the Masters series events for the first time. The nine Masters tournaments are the most important after the four Grand Slams and Masters Cup, with big prize-money (some £1.6m is on offer at Indian Wells) and extra ranking points at stake.
Murray, who was waiting yesterday to know the identity of his first-round opponent from qualifying last night, was the British No 15 and ranked No 422 in the world this time last year. His first tournament victory last month, following wins over Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt in San Jose, took him to British No 1. The next priority is a place in the top 32, which would secure a seeding in Grand Slam tournaments and avoid big names in the early rounds.
The draw at Indian Wells offers hope of more progress. In the second round Murray would face Nikolai Davydenko, and his future opponents would probably be Carlos Moya or Marat Safin, David Ferrer and David Nalbandian.
"I've already shown that my game is pretty good by beating Roddick and Hewitt, but this is a bigger tournament," Murray said. "I'd like to win a few matches, but I'm not expected to do great. I don't expect my best tennis to come now, but when I'm 21 or 22. I'm happy with where my game is and am focusing on improving."Reuse content