Murray shrugs off Beijing low to set sights on Llodra
Wednesday 27 August 2008
Michael Llodra once prepared for a match in Miami by sitting naked in Ivan Ljubicic's dressing room locker. "I'm trying to get positive energy from you because you're winning a lot of matches this year," he told a bemused Ljubicic, who had returned from a shower to find the Frenchman lurking and his own clothes strewn over the floor.
Llodra, 28, is enjoying the best year of his career, but may need to go looking for inspiration again before his next match here at the US Open. While the world No 38 laboured for three and a half hours to complete a four-sets first-round victory over the Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili on Monday night, his next opponent, Andy Murray, needed only 95 minutes to beat Argentina's Sergio Roitman.
"It wasn't a good match, but at the end of the day I won," Llodra said afterwards. "In tennis sometimes you don't play your best tennis but you have to win the match if you can."
Murray was appreciably more upbeat following his emphatic victory over Roitman, the world No 107. This was his first match after his straight-sets defeat by Chinese Taipei's Lu Yen-Hsun in the first round of the Olympics, his worst result for six months. "I'm feeling really confident just now, regardless of what happened in Beijing," Murray said.
Having won his first Masters Series title in Cincinnati earlier this month, the British No 1 believes the hard work he has done off the court has been crucial in putting him in contention for the game's biggest prizes.
"A lot of things go into having the ability to win a Slam," he said. "Talent gets you to a certain level and then the hard work starts to kick in. If you're not putting in the hard work, you're not going to get the opportunities to win a Grand Slam.
"That's something I've learnt since I first came on the Tour. I've really stepped up my workload off the court and started travelling with a fitness trainer. That's the big difference in my game and the reason why I have the potential to win a Slam.
"In the past I felt nervous coming into the bigger tournaments but now that I've started to work really hard off the court I go into my matches with no excuses or worries. You just go on the court and play tennis."
Murray and Llodra have met once before, the Scot winning in straight sets in Metz last year, though they were on opposite sides of the net in Beijing only a fortnight ago. Llodra, who has had more success as a doubles player, and Arnaud Clement beat Murray and his brother Jamie in straight sets on their way to the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament.
"Llodra is really talented," Murray said. "He played really well at the start of the year and hasn't had too much success lately, but as a leftie and a serve-and-volley player he's tricky. I beat him quite comfortably in Metz, but I think he's playing a bit better than he was then."
The winner will play either Austria's Jurgen Melzer, who is set to face Murray in the Davis Cup at Wimbledon next month, or the Czech Republic's Jiri Vanek. In the first round Melzer beat the No 27 seed, Feliciano Lopez, another serve-and-volley specialist who might have been a troublesome opponent.
A big serve can be a potent weapon on these courts, as Tomas Berdych, the No 22 seed, discovered when he took only six games off the American Sam Querrey. The world No 55 won the point on 35 of the 40 first serves he put in court. Frenchman Richard Gasquet, the No 12 seed, made 64 unforced errors as he was beaten in five sets by Tommy Haas.
Ana Ivanovic is the top women's seed here, but you would never have guessed that from her erratic first-round performance. The 20-year-old Serb beat Russia's Vera Dushevina 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in a two-hour match of rapidly changing fortunes.
Ivanovic won the first set in 26 minutes and when Dushevina lost the next game with four successive double faults a rapid finish looked likely. Errors quickly crept into Ivanovic's play, however, and the world No 1 lost the second set after leading 4-2.
The Serb would have been the first women's No 1 seed to lose in the first round here in the Open era, but at 3-3 in the deciding set she held her game together long enough to make what proved to be the decisive break.
Ivanovic, who will now play the French qualifier Julie Coin, went to Beijing but pulled out of the Olympics without playing because of a thumb injury. She flew here via Australia in order to consult a specialist, who identified and treated the problem. "I had no power in my hand and couldn't hold my racket," she said. "But I have finally got my power back and the inflammation has started to calm down. I'm just thrilled to be here and to have the opportunity to play."
Dinara Safina, who is seeded to meet Ivanovic in the quarter-finals, maintained her outstanding form with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over a 16-year-old American, Kristie Ahn. Serena Williams, the No 4 seed, looked in good shape as she beat the Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko 6-1, 6-4, but Daniela Hantuchova, the No 11 seed, was trounced 6-4, 6-2 by the German qualifier, Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
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