No surface tension as Murray looks to shed his feet of clay

World No 4 can master tactical game that slowed his progress down in the past

Emilio Sanchez could be biased, given that Andy Murray is a graduate of his Barcelona academy, but he believes the world No 4's clay-court fortunes may be about to take a significant turn for the better.

In his four years on the senior tour Murray has never won more than two matches in a row on clay. But Sanchez points to a spate of springtime injuries that hurt Murray's chances in the past and says the 21-year-old Scot has the potential to succeed on a surface on which he gained plenty of experience in his formative teenage years.

Murray begins his latest clay-court campaign at this week's Monte Carlo Masters, where nine of the world's top 10 players compete in the first event of the European outdoor season.

"If he's stronger physically this year and has greater mental strength, I think he'll be much more competitive," Sanchez said. "You have to have a fighting spirit to win on clay. He won't win matches the same way that he does on hard courts. On clay you have to be tougher in the mind, tougher in the heart and tougher physically."

Sanchez, who founded his academy in partnership with his fellow Spanish professional Sergio Casal 11 years ago, believes that it can take time to adjust to clay. "Most of today's players compete on hard courts for most of the year," he said. "On hard courts the ball comes through to you. You wait for the ball and maybe 80 per cent of the shots you play on the back foot.

"On clay, because the ball stops, you have to move to it. That's the most difficult adjustment. Normally that comes naturally to people who grow up playing on clay, but today even players like [Rafael] Nadal can take time to adjust and make mistakes. I noticed it when he played in the Davis Cup on clay recently.

Sanchez added: "On other surfaces, when you serve you expect to dominate and to finish off the point, whether it's from the baseline or at the net, but on clay you know that your opponent is always going to have the chance to get the ball back.

"Clay is more demanding because you have to make more effort. On hard courts you can win points with what I'd call normal shots because your opponent doesn't have time to get behind the ball. On clay he usually has time to get there. You actually have to play more correctly – you have to hit better shots – to win the point."

What are the main qualities that a clay-court player needs? "All the top players know how to play on clay tactically and how to hit their shots," Sanchez said. "The mental side is about 60 per cent of it. The heart and drive will be about 20 per cent and the physical side will be about 20 per cent. You have to have the mentality and to be prepared to suffer all the time."

At the top level of the men's tour no player has won more matches in the last nine months than Murray. He has lost only twice this year and won three titles, taking his career tally to 11. All were won on hard courts, but Sanchez, twice a doubles champion at the French Open, sees no reason why Murray should not perform well on clay.

"The way he moves and covers the court so well is actually one of the qualities that makes a lot of players successful on clay," Sanchez said. "I think the way he recovers balls and covers the court shows that, provided he's tougher on clay, he could be challenging the top players. Obviously hard courts suit him best but he's a very good all-round player so he can play well on any surface."

Sanchez points out that many of the best players on fast courts in recent years could also enjoy success on clay. "Players like Stefan Edberg and Pat Rafter played well on clay because they were so good technically. They were aggressive players, but they were also very correct players, which is what you need to be on clay. Even when they attacked the net it was often very hard to pass them."

If Murray needs an example of a fast-court specialist who proved he could perform on clay, he need look no further than Tim Henman, who reached the semi-finals of the French Open. "In his early years he struggled a little physically because he wasn't strong enough, but as he became stronger he became a very good player on clay," Sanchez said. "He didn't change his game because he knew what he did best, coming to the net and playing volleys."

Murray's misfortunes on clay

Monte Carlo Masters 2006

Murray is beaten in three sets by Jean-René Lisnard, the world No 154, after suffering cramp during a three-hour first-round battle.

French Open 2006

Gaël Monfils beats Murray in five sets in the first round after the Scot suffers back problems.

Monte Carlo Masters 2007

Murray injures his back playing doubles the night before his scheduled first-round singles match and is forced to pull out.

Hamburg Masters 2007

Murray hurts his wrist against Filippo Volandri and misses the next three months, including Wimbledon and French Open.

Paul Newman

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam