US Open 2013: Andy Murray the celebrity in need of star performance
Draw relatively kind for Scot but he must handle the pressures of being defending champion
Andy Murray has always looked more comfortable with a racket rather than a microphone in his hand, but the 26-year-old Briton has been given regular reminders of his celebrity status since arriving here last week to prepare for the defence of his US Open title.
While Murray has always been popular with American crowds, his profile rose significantly when he won his maiden title here last year then moved up another notch with his Wimbledon triumph last month. When the draw was made for next week's tournament, which begins on Monday, Murray was given pride of place on stage alongside Serena Williams, the defending women's champion, and took everything in his stride, even when asked whether he was bigger news back home than Prince George. "I think the future king is slightly bigger," Murray said with a smile.
One reason for Murray to have looked happy would have been his draw. Although the latter stages promise to be tough if he lives up to his seeding, the world No 3 does not appear to have any banana skins in his path until the quarter-finals.
After a first-round meeting with Michael Llodra, whom he beat here in 2008, Murray is likely to face Victor Hanescu, Juan Monaco and Nicolas Almagro before a last-eight showdown with Tomas Berdych, whose big-hitting game has given him trouble.
Thereafter Murray would probably have to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the world's top-two ranked players, if he is to claim his third Grand Slam title. Djokovic, nevertheless, has a tricky draw – he could face Grigor Dimitrov in the third round and Juan Martin del Potro in the last eight – while Nadal might have to beat Roger Federer, who is now down to world No 7, in the quarter-finals. The Spaniard and the Swiss certainly appear to be in the easier half of the draw, though the recent experience at a shock-laden Wimbledon showed how dangerous it can be to take too much for granted.
Murray was not in the best of form in his two tournaments following Wimbledon, but his results were no worse than in the equivalent events last year. Besides, he has been having to cope with his new status as Wimbledon champion. "The first week or so after [I won Wimbledon] it didn't quite feel real," Murray said. "It was something I'd been working towards for a long time. There had been a lot of pressure on me to do that – not just on me but on generations beforehand with Tim Henman as well.
"I've enjoyed my tennis the last few weeks, but now it's time for business. This is a huge tournament for me. I came here the first time when I was 15, I played my first Grand Slam final here, my first Grand Slam win was here and I won the juniors here when I was 17. So I love this tournament and I'll try and have a good run."
Murray, who will be defending a Grand Slam title for the first time next week, agreed the build-up to next week's tournament had been different to previous years.
"It's a new experience for me," he said. "I've never had to deal with that before. This week's been a little bit busier and there have been a few more demands on my time, but I'm looking forward to it.
"I just want the tournament to get started now. I've been here since Friday night so I've been practising the last few days and I'm looking forward to getting back on court.'
He added: "I came to the US Open last year never having won a Grand Slam. I didn't know if I was ever going to win one because people would say to me and the players would say in the press: 'He's good enough to win a Grand Slam. He's going to win one'.
"But the more finals you lose in, the more you start to doubt yourself and think: 'Is it ever going to happen?' So getting that weight off my shoulders at the US Open was huge. Winning Olympic gold at a home Olympics was a very proud moment for me – not many people get the opportunity to do that – and then Wimbledon was obviously very, very special for a number of reasons."
Murray's march: Route to final
Michael Llodra (Fr, aged 33, world No 49). Murray has won all three of their meetings.
Victor Hanescu (Rom, 32, No 54). Rarely troubles top players. Murray has won both their meetings.
Juan Monaco (Arg, 29, No 31). Two wins apiece, but has slipped in rankings.
Nicolas Almagro (Sp, 28, No 16). Rarely goes far on the biggest stages. Murray has won their last three meetings.
Tomas Berdych (Cz, 27, No 5). Murray has won six of 10 meetings, including last week.
Novak Djokovic (Serbia, 26, No 1). Met Murray in three of the last four Grand Slam finals, winning one, losing two.
Rafael Nadal (Sp, 27, No 2). Has continued remarkable comeback from knee trouble by winning in Montreal and Cincinnati in build-up to New York.
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