When you are in a hurry to get somewhere accidents can happen. For the last month Andy Murray has been hurtling around Europe, flying to Metz, Moscow, Madrid and St Petersburg, but his travels came to an abrupt halt here on Monday night. After arriving in the French capital from Russia to play in this week's Paris Masters, the 20-year-old Scot and his coach, Brad Gilbert, were involved in a car crash on the way to their hotel.
"There was quite a lot of traffic on the way from the airport," Murray said yesterday. "The guy driving our car did nothing wrong. He just broke, then someone drove right into the back of us at about 20 kilometres an hour. Our car was fine. The other driver smashed up his.
"I'd never been in a car crash like that before. When you get hit that hard it's a pretty loud bang. You get thrown forward and back pretty quickly. My back was a little bit stiff this morning, but nothing serious."
By yesterday morning Murray was out on the practice court and by the afternoon he was partnering his brother, Jamie, in the first round of the doubles. Although the Murrays lost 6-1, 2-6, 11-9 to Jordan Kerr and Andre Sa, despite having two match points, the good news for Andy was that he had suffered no ill effects following the accident and had got in some valuable match practice before his singles opener this morning against Jarkko Nieminen.
Murray's excellent autumn, which peaked with his victory in the St Petersburg Open on Sunday, has revived his chances of reaching next month's season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, which would be a remarkable achievement, given his three-month absence in the summer with a wrist injury. The Scot has climbed back to No 12 in the world rankings and at the start of the current tournament was 11th in the ATP 2007 Race, which awards points for performances throughout the year.
The top eight players in the Race qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup and two places are still up for grabs. Tommy Haas is currently eighth in the list and the German's victory yesterday over Janko Tipsarevic means that Murray will have to make the quarter-finals at least in order to have any chance of reaching Shanghai.
Novak Djokovic, the world No 3, who plays France's Fabrice Santoro today, is Murray's projected third-round opponent, but before that the British No 1 must find a way past Nieminen, who lost to Roger Federer in the final at Basle on Sunday and beat Argentina's Juan Monaco 6-4, 6-4 in the first round here yesterday.
Nieminen has played Murray once before, losing in three sets in the quarter-finals of last year's Toronto Masters. "I know Andy well," the Finn said yesterday. "He doesn't have one big weapon, but at the same time he has many strengths. He can play defensively or aggressively, he serves well, he returns well and he's a tough player to beat. He changes the pace and the tempo. He does it really well, in a similar way to Federer. He's one of the few guys who can do that."
Murray, who as one of the 16 seeds had a bye in the first round, said he expected a tough match against the world No 26. "He obviously played well last week," Murray said. "I only played him once before and it was really close. He's a solid player, he fights hard and he's in great shape."
Asked whether he felt surprised to be in contention for a place in the Masters Cup, Murray said: "I feel like I deserve to have a chance to get into Shanghai. I was surprised in Madrid, when all the guys right in front of me all lost in the first round. I feel like I deserve it. I had a tough three months. I guess the other guys losing is kind of making up for that time that I missed. Just to have a chance is great.
"If I had been playing those three months, who knows what my ranking would be? But I've finished the year playing some good tennis. Now I feel like I deserve to be one of the guys that has a chance of going."
Federer, who could meet Murray in the semi-finals, begins his campaign today against Ivo Karlovic, a three-sets winner yesterday over Fernando Verdasco. James Blake, a potential quarter-final opponent for Murray and a rival for a Shanghai place, meets Nicolas Mahut.Reuse content