Andy Murray is never one to take big decisions lightly and even after his second practice session of the day here he had still not made up his mind whether to play in this week’s Rome Masters.
After lengthy discussions with his entourage, however, the Scot decided that he will compete at the Foro Italico, despite his gruelling recent schedule and his concerns about not having enough time to prepare for the French Open, which begins on Sunday week.
Murray, who will meet Jérémy Chardy in his opening match, played nine matches in 11 days to win successive clay-court titles in Munich and Madrid.
He appears more worried about a cut on his right thumb, which he suffered in the last game of his victory over Rafael Nadal in the Madrid final on Sunday evening, than about weariness, but his preparations for Roland Garros were a big consideration. The world No 3 plans to be in Paris from early next week and wants to ensure he has at least three days’ training there before the tournament starts.
Matt Little, Murray’s trainer, and Shane Annun, his physio, both advised that a lengthy run here might affect his preparations for the French Open. However, Amélie Mauresmo, the Scot’s coach, was keen for him to get matches under his belt in Rome because the conditions here are more similar to Paris than Munich or Madrid, where, because of the altitude, the balls fly faster through the air.
“I haven’t been in this situation before,” Murray said, following his afternoon practice session with Italy’s Matteo Marrai. “I made my schedule based on my performances on clay the last couple of years, and I had never played that well on it before. I didn’t expect to play [nine] matches in  days. You don’t really get that in other sports.
“Last week, I played every match late in the evening. I arrived here late and had one day of preparation. It’s about doing what’s right with a very long period of big events coming up, with Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Madrid and Rome are big tournaments, too. It’s very difficult to play your best and be there physically every week if you are winning. Novak [Djokovic] skipped Madrid last week because of the amount of tennis he’s been playing. Some guys skipped Miami. It’s not just this tournament that gets hit.
“If you are winning a lot of matches, sometimes you need to do what’s best for your body. The worst-case scenario is you try and play too much and injure yourself and you miss the next four or five weeks. Even if it’s two or three weeks, it can significantly affect not only the French Open but Wimbledon, too.”
Djokovic, playing his first match for three weeks, made a patchy start to the defence of his title, beating Spain’s Nicolas Almagro 6-1, 6-7, 6-3. The world No 1 lost the last five points of the tie-break and needed a break in the penultimate game of the deciding set to complete his victory.
Serena Williams, the defending women’s champion, won her opening match, beating Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-3. Maria Sharapova also got off to a winning start as Jarmila Gajdosova retired with an injury when trailing 6-2, 3-1. Britain’s Heather Watson will play her second-round match this afternoon against Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.Reuse content