BNP-Paribas Open: Andy Murray looks ahead with confidence
ACCORDING to the people who run men’s tennis, history only began in 1968 with the beginning of the open era. According to Andy Murray, history began in August last year.
That was the moment he started winning big titles again – the Cincinnati Masters, beating Novak Djokovic in the final – and began his push for the top of the world rankings.
Since that week in the heat and humidity of the mid-west of America, Murray has won a further four titles and has been banking ranking points with the best of them.
If the world pecking order were to be decided on the points won and lost in the last eight months, Scotland’s finest would be in third place and breathing down the necks of Roger Federer and Djokovic and he would have left Rafael Nadal trailing in fourth.
Alas, the rankings do not work that way and as the world No.4, Murray is currently 5,860 points behind the world No.1, Djokovic.
No matter, there are 1,000 points available to the winners of the BNP Paribas Open in California this week and the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami in two weeks’ time.
And the very fact that Murray came within one backhand return of beating Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-final in January and then went on to beat him comprehensively in the Dubai Open semi-final just over a week ago makes Murray believe that he is within touching distance of upsetting the accepted order at the top.
“It was important,” Murray said of his middle-eastern win. “I served for the match against him in Rome, I beat him in Cincinnati.
“There was the match at the Australian Open this year, which was very close, and then this time I obviously won (in Dubai). The matches have been fairly even since the middle of last year, I felt like I improved a lot but I think since the Australian Open, beginning of last year, in that six months, I think I improved, I needed to. And I feel like this year I have improved again so I am happy with that and I look forward to hopefully getting the opportunity to play him again in Indian Wells.”
Murray would need to get to the semi-final in California in order to meet the Serb again – he was due to play his opening match against Guillermo Garcia Lopez in the early hours of this morning – but he is impatient to get another crack at his rival.
Compared to the crushing defeat to Djokovic in last year’s Australian Open final, losing to him in Melbourne this year was a very positive experience.
With Ivan Lendl to guide him around the emotional pitfalls of competing at the very top level, Murray, pictured right, knows that he finally ready to achieve his two goals: a grand slam title and the No.1 ranking. He said: “Mentally, for me, it was good because last year I got to the final in Australia but the final was quite tough.
“It was a tough loss for me because I felt like I was a long way behind – even if I wasn’t that far behind, it felt like I was – whereas this year it was obviously different and with that Dubai win, that helped as well.
“And, again, having someone like Ivan, that also helps, too. He’s been very good. He’s helped with my confidence, I feel a lot stronger mentally, I feel very calm on the court, just now in practise I’ve felt very relaxed and looking forward to starting the tournament because I’m playing well.”
In the women’s event, British No.1 Elena Baltacha was knocked out by world No.15 Julia Goerges.
The Scot, ranked 62 in the world, battled from a set down to beat Holland’s Arantxa Rus in the first round but was no match for Goerges in their second-round tie. The 14th-seeded German defeated Baltacha 6-3, 6-2 to set up a third-round meeting with Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues.
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