Murray serves volley back at Djokovic over rankings row
NEW world No3 Andy Murray hit back at No4 Novak Djokovic after the Serb said the current rankings system was cruel.
Djokovic was leapfrogged by Murray in the rankings on Monday despite landing a second title of the year in Belgrade at the weekend and reaching the last three Masters Series finals.
"There always seem to be problems and now it's obviously the rankings," said Murray after beating Tommy Robredo in the third round of the Madrid Open. "It's great that Novak's done well the last few weeks, but the first three or four months of the year I played a lot better than him so I think the rankings reflect very well how the guys are playing," the Scot added. "Until this week I have never heard anyone complain. I think maybe only in the last week it's become a problem for Novak."
Players on the ATP tour have to defend the points they earned during the same week a year earlier, so the reigning champion at an event can only maintain his points tally, not improve it.
"Playing three Masters Series finals in a row and winning a 250 event is incredible success and even then you are dropping a spot down in the rankings," Djokovic said on Wednesday. "That shows how cruel the ranking system is in this sport."
Meanwhile, Murray underlined his burgeoning clay-court prowess as he swept aside home favourite Robredo in straight sets to ease into the quarter- finals of the Madrid Open. Better was expected of the 16th-seeded Robredo on his favoured surface but the Spaniard did at least push Murray in the first set before succumbing meekly in the second. Murray's 7-5, 6-1 win in one hour and 43 minutes is arguably one of his best results on clay, and on the eve of his 22nd birthday the Scot looked like a man ready to become a contender on a surface which has traditionally highlighted his shortcomings. Murray will face fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro, who beat No11 seed Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Murray is officially classed as the defending champion at the tournament, although his success in the Masters Series event last year came when it was played on a hard-court surface. This season's renewal of the Madrid Open has been repackaged as a clay court event, due to a revamped ATP calendar, and for Murray to defend his title he will have to produce a lifetime best run on clay.
Murray, who turns 22 today, is still hunting for his first title on clay having recorded all 11 of his tournament victories on hard courts – including this event seven months ago before it switched venues to the newly-built La Caja Magica. However, he is making a thoroughly good fist of a clay-court breakthrough on yesterday's evidence.
Although Murray made hard work of the first set, the Scot clinched the opener 7-5. The second set was all one-way traffic as Murray stepped up a gear.
An early break in the third game had Murray in the driving seat while a second break in the fifth – the crucial point coming only after the chair umpire overruled an incorrect call by a line judge – effectively ended the contest. Two games later Murray brought up his 11th break point and converted the fourth of those with a strong backhand return to progress comfortably into the next round.
Prior to the match, Robredo had won two tournaments and recorded an ATP Tour- leading 21 victories on clay this year, compared to only four match triumphs for Murray. It promised to be a stiff examination for Murray on his least-favoured surface, but the Scot came through with flying colours.
"I'm very happy with the result, he's one of the top clay-court players," said Murray.
Nadal was handed a walkover into the last eight when Philipp Kohlschreiber was forced out with a leg injury. Nadal was joined in the last eight by Roger Federer, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over 14th seed James Blake. Djokovic, chasing a fifth straight final appearance, also advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over unseeded Italian Andreas Seppi.
Nadal is bidding for a sixth title of the season and a fourth on clay and will play compatriot Fernando Verdasco, the seventh seed, or wild card Juan Monaco today for a place in the last four.
Federer fell to Blake at last year's Beijing Olympics but insisted: "I didn't really see it as a revenge match."
The 13-times grand slam winner will play Andy Roddick in the next round after the sixth-seeded American's opponent Nikolay Davydenko withdrew yesterday with a leg injury.
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