ANDY Murray believes he can add the French Open title to his Olympic gold and US Open triumph, provided he has time to prepare.
The 25-year-old, who last month finished runner-up at the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic, last week made the decision to skip Great Britain’s Davis Cup contest with Russia in order to prepare for an assault on Roland Garros.
With Rafael Nadal still to prove his fitness after a long lay-off with a knee injury followed by illness, Murray is seeking to inherit the title won by the Spaniard in Paris last June.
“I believe I have a chance of winning the French Open,” said Murray, the six-time grand slam finalist. “But to do that I need to prepare and use every single day as best as I can. That’s why, unfortunately, I decided not to play Davis Cup this time. I will play the match in September and I’ll be available for that.”
Britain will take on Russia at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena on 5-7 April, with the clay court season beginning the following day in Casablanca, Morocco.
The Scot believes he plays his best tennis after a spell of focused practice, month-long stints honing his physical and tactical self.
“I’ve realised over the years that I play my best when I have time to prepare for each tournament as best as possible,” Murray said.
“That’s why I’m not going to play anything between now and Indian Wells and Miami [both in March]. The clay court season is extremely important for me. It’s a surface that takes me a long time to get used to.
“It’s not a surface that comes naturally to me; grass and hard courts I feel comfortable on fairly quickly. The clay takes me a long time; I need to practise and train on that for a lot of hours.” Murray was speaking at Queen’s Club, where he will compete on grass in June, seeking to win the AEGON Championships for a third time.
Murray will return to west London on 10 June as a grand slam winner for the first time having ended another long wait for British tennis at the US Open last year, after four near misses in finals.
It is eight years since the Scot won his first ATP World Tour match at Queen’s Club as an 18-year-old, beating Spain’s Santiago Ventura before he was beaten by Sweden’s Thomas Johansson a couple of rounds later.
The AEGON Championship is an important tournament for Murray ahead of Wimbledon, which begins eight days after the Queen’s competition finishes, on 24 June.
Playing matches on grass is essential for a good campaign. He said: “The way I played at the Olympics is a good sign of how ... when you do play matches on it ... I spent seven or eight weeks through Queen’s, Wimbledon, then to the Olympics last year and I played some of my best tennis I’ve ever played. It is important to play matches and get time on the surface, but if you lose early, I have also tried to play some exhibition matches.
“It is good preparation, that’s why they always get the best fields [at Queen’s].”
Reflecting on the Australian Open, Murray was content with his performance in Melbourne but believes the missed opportunity to beat Roger Federer in four sets in the semi-final might have proved costly in the final.
He said: “You analyse the tournament as a whole; overall I think I played well. There were a few things I could’ve done a little better in the final, also the semi-final. I maybe could’ve made it easier on myself and not had a long five-setter. I had a chance to serve for the match in the fourth set, didn’t play a particularly good tie-breaker after that.”