ANDY Murray faces his toughest challenge of the year if he is to reclaim the US Open title he won in 2012.
At yesterday’s draw ceremony in Flushing Meadows, the world No 9 was presented with a series of potentially dangerous and awkward opponents to deal with just to give himself a chance of challenging for the silverware.
By his own exacting standards, Murray has had a moderate season as he has tried to get back to top form following back surgery last year. He has not won a title since last summer while the defence of his Wimbledon title ended lamely in the quarter-finals. And just when he needed a decent run of matches to get himself match-tight before the Open begins on Monday, he has managed to play only six matches – and win four – in his run-up to the tournament.
The bookies are not putting their money on Murray winning again – Novak Djokovic, Murray’s potential quarter-final opponent, is their favourite with Roger Federer the second favourite and Murray tagging along in third.
But New York is where Murray made his great breakthrough two years ago. This is the city he loves, these are the courts he favours and after months of frustration and thwarted ambitions, this could be the place where he turns his form around. The best-of-five set format gives him a little breathing space – one dropped set is not a disaster – while the conditions suit his game to a tee.
He has a winning record against all the men he could meet in the first four rounds as he makes his way to that quarter-final with Djokovic but he needs to be at his confident best to threaten them again.
So far this year, though, Murray has not been near to his grand slam-winning best form of 2012 and 2013. He has three days to find the missing magic if he wants to win his second US Open title.