Last summer's Olympic Games provided Andy Murray with some of the best moments of his career, but his second-round match here against Lu Yen-hsun, of Chinese Taipei, will be a reminder of a more painful Olympic experience.
Five years ago Murray went to the Beijing Games as the world No 6, having just beaten Novak Djokovic in the final in Cincinnati to claim his first Masters Series title, only to fall at the first hurdle. Lu, then the world No 77, beat Murray in straight sets and the Scot's misery was completed when he lost in the second round of the doubles, in partnership with his brother Jamie, after winning only four games against the Frenchmen Arnaud Clément and Michaël Llodra.
"This is going to sound like an excuse but it is the reality," Murray said as he looked ahead to tomorrow's encounter. "We arrived there late because of Cincinnati and it was tough conditions in Beijing. I was so excited to be part of the Olympics. I went to the opening ceremony and I was sweating so much. I wanted to meet all of the other athletes and enjoy the whole experience and basically forgot a little bit that I was there to win tennis matches.
"That's why when the Olympics came around last time – and it was four years I had to wait – I was determined to put that to bed, because I had messed up a little bit. I learnt a lot from that match."
Lu, now the world No 75, is one of only two Asian men in the top 100 – along with Japan's Kei Nishikori – but others are emerging through the ranks. There are four Japanese and two Chinese ranked between 100 and 200. China's women have also been particularly successful in recent years. Li Na's victory at the 2011 French Open was the first by an Asian singles player at a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era.
Murray believes it would be good for the sport if more Asian players broke through and believes they will do so over the next decade. He has his own connection with that part of the world via his new manager, the Indian doubles player Mahesh Bhupathi, whose Asian tennis league, involving many of the world's top players, is expected to be launched next year.
"The thing about the league is that there are people out there who want to pay to see tennis," Murray said. "With the structure we have in the ATP, they cannot get tournaments, but these people want to see the top players playing. There is obviously a market there for exhibitions or a league and that is down to the success of some of the players over the last few years and, hopefully, that will continue."
Lu, aged 29, peaked at No 33 in the world rankings three years ago, when he reached the quarter-finals here after a memorable five-set victory over Andy Roddick. The world No 75's only other meeting with Murray was in Indian Wells earlier this year, when the Scot won in straight sets.Reuse content