Murray's clay craft makes model victim of Volandri

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The Independent Online

The last time Andy Murray played Filippo Volandri he left the court clutching his right arm after suffering the wrist injury that ruined his 2007 summer. Yesterday the arm was pumping the air in celebration after a 6-4, 6-1 victory over the Italian sent Murray into the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters.

Reaching the last 16 here might seem a modest achievement, but this is the furthest the British No 1 has gone in a clay-court event since he joined the senior tour. It was only his fourth victory in the 12 tour matches he has played on the surface and the first time he has won matches back-to-back.

Volandri, the world No 42, may have a lower ranking than Murray's previous opponent, Feliciano Lopez, but, unlike the Spaniard, he is a clay-court specialist with a game made for the surface. With the Italian border just a few kilometres up the road he also enjoyed the majority of the crowd's support, although Murray probably felt more at home in the chilly conditions.

The 20-year-old Scot looked in command from the moment he had Volandri in trouble in his first service game. Striking the ball cleanly and covering the ground with great athleticism, Murray was the better player in every department. Volandri, who has been struggling to overcome a knee injury, said afterwards that he was surprised how much stronger Murray had become since they last met.

Breaks of serve were exchanged in the sixth and seventh games before Murray broke again to take the first set after 44 minutes. From 1-1 in the second Murray won five games in a row to secure a third-round meeting tomorrow with Novak Djokovic, who was presented with the Association of Tennis Professionals' most improved player of the year award after his 6-3, 6-3 victory over Ivan Ljubicic.

Djokovic, a week younger than Murray and a friend since junior days, has won all three of their meetings on the senior tour, although the Scot was carrying injuries when they met in successive semi-finals in Indian Wells and Miami last year.

Murray acknowledged the "unbelievable" consistency of Djokovic's results over the last year, during which time the Serb has climbed to No 3 in the world rankings and won the Australian Open. "Normally young guys play some good weeks and then some bad weeks," Murray said. "He's made at least the semis of every Grand Slam event and played well in a lot of Masters series tournaments."