Andy Murray’s ring of optimism after clay win
Andy Murray has won his first clay court title, he is the first Briton to win a trophy on the European red dirt in 39 years and he is now settled into his digs in Spain for the Mutua Madrid Open. But the really good news is that he has finally worked out what to do with his wedding ring.
By winning the Munich silverware on Monday, beating Philipp Kohlschreiber in a rain-delayed final, he did what no Brit had done since Buster Mottram in 1976.
British players and clay courts had tended to go together like tapas and porridge but Murray has always known his way around on the slower surface, ever since he went to Barcelona to train as a teenager.
Achieving the long-held ambition of winning a trophy on the clay has given his confidence a huge lift coming into this week’s event in the Spanish capital and has sharpened his focus on the French Open, which starts on 24 May.
But the Munich event was also Murray’s first as a married man which led to the problems with his shiny, new wedding ring. He soon discovered that he could not wear it when he was playing – it gave him blisters – and while he did try putting it on a necklace during practice and matches, he broke the necklace on day one. What to do?
“I’ve been tying it to my shoelaces when I was playing,” he said with a relieved smile. “That was fine. I had a necklace which broke the first day I got it. It got caught on the physio bed and it snapped off – that was the plan, to put my wedding ring on the necklace. But I’ve just been tying it to my shoes when I’ve been playing. I think Kim seems all right with that. As long as I don’t scratch it or break it, then she’s fine.”
With that major problem solved, Murray is a much happier man, and, as luck would have it, Murray must face Kohlschreiber again today as he begins his campaign in Spain. The world No 24 from Germany booked his place in the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Alejandro Falla, of Columbia.
When Murray came to Madrid last year, he was still reeling from the sudden departure of Ivan Lendl from his team. This time around, he is still working out the practicalities of Amelie Mauresmo’s imminent departure – she is expecting her first child in August – but while that relationship is still fluid, Murray seems delighted with the addition of Jonas Bjorkman to the team.
The Swede started work a couple of weeks ago at a training block in Barcelona and last week, in his first stint in charge, he steered Murray to victory. Today he will hand back the reins to Mauresmo for a couple of weeks, but he will be flying solo again for the hard court season later in the summer.
“We haven’t really spent enough time [together] for me to really say how Jonas works or the sort of practice sessions I would have with him,” Murray said. “But we spent some days in Barcelona and he seemed to be impressed with the work that I was doing and the amount of time I was putting in on the court and in the gym.
“There’s obviously things that I want to get from him – it’s quite obvious the things that he was very good at as a player and what he has a good understanding of. He is a very easy character to get along with and that was very important in the last couple of weeks. He’s a very easy-going guy.
“He’s used to working as part of a team by playing doubles and he’s had many, many different partners and was very successful with all of them.”
Last year, still trying to get back to full fitness after his back surgery, Murray reached the semi-finals at the French Open. He lost to Rafael Nadal, just as he had at the same stage in 2011, but now fully fit and with that first clay court title to his name, he is not ruling out a shot at the title in Paris.
Nadal has had a miserable season by his standards, although Murray is not daft enough to write the Spaniard off – Nadal has, after all, lost just one match in a decade at Roland Garros. Then again, there are five weeks to go before the French Open final and anything can happen in that time. “For me, obviously, the French would be the most challenging one to win,” Murray said.
“A lot of it really depends on Rafa: if Rafa is playing his best tennis again, the French would be extremely difficult for me to beat him there. Novak [Djokovic] is obviously playing great just now – I’ve never beaten either of them on the clay. ”
• Andy Murray is among eight of the world’s top 13 players to have been included on the official entry list for the Aegon Championships at Queen’s this summer. Murray will join Rafael Nadal, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon at the grass-court tournament in June, a warm-up event for Wimbledon.