Murrays lead way as Scots teams seek Valencia joy

VALENCIA hosts a Scottish invasion today, but Rangers are not the only team in town - the Murray brothers are also in Spain's third biggest city this week looking for a big result, Andy in particular. The world No 4 is bidding to retain the Valencia Open title he won last year, and will open his defence this lunchtime with a match against Feliciano Lopez, an opponent against whom he boasts a perfect 3-0 record.

• Andy Murray practises for his match today against Feliciano Lopez, whom he also faces in doublesPicture: Getty

The 23-year-old Scot also teams up in the doubles with his brother Jamie, who is playing in his first tournament since he got married last week. The Murrays gained a wildcard to play in the doubles event, and will meet Andy's singles opponent Lopez and his playing partner Fernando Verdasco.

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Whether the Hibs-supporting pair will be tempted to head along to the Mestalla this evening to lend a bit of patriotic support to Rangers in their Champions League match, or whether some of the Glasgow fans will be spotted cheering on the Murrays in the grandstand at the Agora building - one of the most picturesque and impressive arenas in tennis - remains to be seen, but all will be hoping Scotland have a good day.

While the doubles is perhaps a sideshow for Andy Murray, he goes into the singles tournament as top seed and will be hoping to build on his hugely impressive victory at the Shanghai Masters, where he swatted aside Roger Federer 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

Perhaps the biggest threat to his title defence is Robin Soderling, the world No 5, who also faces a Spaniard in the first round, in Albert Montanes.

Murray would have good reason to be confident against Lopez, if previous meetings are anything to go by. He has already beaten the 29-year-old once this year, 6-0, 1-6, 6-4 in Los Angeles, and beat him at Monte Carlo in 2008 and Washington in 2006.

If Murray overcomes Lopez he will play Juan Monaco in the second round.

Verdasco got off to a good start in his bid to secure a spot at the World Tour finals with a 6-4, 6-1 first-round victory over American qualifier Michael Russell.

Spaniard Verdasco, the world No 7 and winner in Valencia in 2004, broke 85th-ranked Russell's serve five times and saved two of the three break points he faced on the indoor hard court.

Murray, Federer, Soderling, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have already qualified for the 21-28 November season-ending ATP Tour finals in London.

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Like Verdasco, David Ferrer and Mikhail Youzhny are still in with a good chance of clinching one of the three remaining berths in the London event.Youzhny, who lost to Murray in last year's Valencia final, takes on Uruguayan qualifier Pablo Cuevas tomorrow.

On the women's tour meanwhile, there was no shortage of talking points from the WTA Championships' final appearance in Doha, with a car crash, coronation and stunning on-court retirement

As the dust settled on Sunday's scintillating final between Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki, tennis chiefs in Istanbul will be licking their lips at the prospect of hosting the prestigious season-ending tournament for the next three years.

Tour chief Stacey Allaster believes Doha's last hurrah will be a hard act to follow but is confident the future of the tournament, and the game, are bright.

"We've had a great final year in Doha, we could not have asked for a better week," said Allaster. "This has been part of the journey of building women's tennis in the Middle East.''

There was plenty of action on an off the court before Sunday's final, which Clijsters eventually won in three sets.

The Belgian narrowly escaped injury from a car crash on the way to her semi-final, Wozniacki was crowned the year-end world No 1 and Russian veteran Elena Dementieva stunned the crowd by announcing her retirement shortly after her final group game.

Allaster said women's tennis was flourishing because it bridged the gap between sport and entertainment, which had attracted more sponsors despite difficult economic times.

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"These are the very best female athletes in the world, and there's a duality of sport and entertainment," she added.