Andy Murray fit and ready to find his feet on clay in Madrid

World No 1 Andy Murray keeps his eye on the ball as he practises in preparation for the Mutua Madrid Open. Picture: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
World No 1 Andy Murray keeps his eye on the ball as he practises in preparation for the Mutua Madrid Open. Picture: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
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His nose is to the grindstone, his shoulder is to the wheel and finally Andy Murray believes that his elbow is behind him.

It may sound as if the world No 1 is launching a new career as a contortionist but he is simply preparing himself for a major assault on the clay court season. And, at last, the Scot is feeling fit and ready to play some ball.

The first few months of Murray’s year have been difficult. Felled by a bout of shingles, a dose of flu and, most recently, an elbow injury, a tear to one of the tendons, his results have hardly been spectacular. Now, though, practice is going well and his serve is firing on all cylinders again.

As he prepares for his opening match at the Mutua Madrid Open this week – he faces either Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, pictured, from Spain or Marius Copil from Romania – he looks well and sounds confident.

“These last few days in practice have been very positive in comparison to pre-Monte Carlo [last month] where I was struggling in practice,” he said. “I was getting killed by everyone before there; that hasn’t been the case here and I do feel like I’m in a good place.

“Maybe it doesn’t happen this week but I’m pretty sure that in the next six to eight weeks I’ll play some good tennis.”

That is promising news, given that the tournaments come thick and fast from now on. It was at this point in the season last year that Murray started to gather momentum. He reached the Madrid final, won the title in Rome and reached his first French Open final. From there, he headed for the grass courts and won at Queen’s Club and Wimbledon and then collected another six trophies on his way to the world No 1 ranking by the end of the year.

Now he has to defend all of those ranking points and trophies to keep his place at the top.

But he does not appear to be in the least bit concerned about the workload ahead of him.

“You don’t really think about defending points,” he said. “At the end of last year, I was aware of what’s going on with points because I was trying to get to No 1 but, right now, I’m not thinking about that at all. It’s about trying to win tournaments and competitions – that’s what motivates me, not like 90 points in the third round of a Masters Series. It just isn’t. I think the momentum can come quickly, to be honest. I think last year was a perfect example of that.

“I struggled after the Australian Open in Indian Wells and Miami and I struggled in the beginning of the tournament in Monte Carlo and then it all turned around. It can change very quickly and I do feel like I’m fit and healthy. I do feel like I’m in a good place.”

It is only in the last couple of years that Murray has truly found his feet on the slow, red clay and the key was learning how to move on the tricky surface. Each year, he has to give himself time to relearn the technique and, if he manages to do it, he knows he can beat anyone on his day.

“I do think clay is a good surface for me now,” he said. “I just need to make sure I approach it the right way, have the right mind set and just because the last couple of years went well, not to take anything for granted and just expect to play well.

“If I do all the right things in the build-up: if I practice properly, train hard and I respect all of my opponents, then I think good things can happen. I can never say for sure but we’ll find out soon enough.”