Rome Masters 2015: Andy Murray confirms he will join the Italian fray

Andy Murray confirms that he will play at the Rome Masters this week as he bids to continue his fine run on clay

andy murray
Andy Murray in practice action in Rome Photo: Marianne Bevis

Andy Murray promised that he would make his decision about playing the Rome Masters after his second practice session of the day at the Foro Italico today, and he did just that.

And the man from Dunblane, he said yes.

He was still undecided when he talked to the press early Tuesday afternoon after hot-footing it from his double-title run in Munich and the Madrid Masters—a gruelling schedule of matches hampered by rain delays and postponements in the former and late-night/early hours matches in the latter.

“It’s obviously been a long couple of weeks,” said Murray. “I wanted to practise to see how my legs felt. Today I don’t feel that tired right now in terms of sleepy tired, but I’m going to do some more moving this afternoon to see if my legs have recovered and decide after that.”

Murray did not play the Monte-Carlo Masters because he was marrying his long-term girlfriend Kim Sears, but he was at pains to stress that he had been far from idle as a result.

“You can’t just get married and not put in the work, you need to work extremely hard. I did that after the wedding for 10 days over in Barcelona.”

He then headed to Munich, where he beat Philipp Kohlschreiber on a Monday final after over three hours of intense tennis. He headed straight to Madrid, where he was again taken to three sets in his first match by Kohlschreiber, but thereafter he did not lose a set, despite playing No6 seed Milos Raonic, No5 seed Kei Nishikori and finally the defending champion, the king of clay himself, Rafael Nadal in the final.

So from having failed to reach even a clay final in his illustrious career, he won two in the space of six days.

I feel a lot healthier than I did the last couple of years on clay

Andy Murray

So what has wrought this change in the Briton’s clay fortunes? It’s easy to forget that Murray has twice reached the semis and twice more the quarters of the French Open, but he gave great credit to his team for his surge in form at this stage of the clay season.

“Definitely for me this year, I feel a lot healthier than I did the last couple of years on clay, so I have to thank my team for that. They’ve made some significant changes to my preparation and things that I’ve been doing, and that’s helped for sure.

“I didn’t feel much pressure last week, I didn’t have high expectations after the finish at three in the morning [in my first match in Madrid]—I just played match after match. I think the altitude perhaps helped me a bit as well, so that’s why I think it would be good for me to get some matches at sea level to see how I’m playing in these conditions.”

That is a particularly pertinent issue, since the conditions in Rome are much closer to the clay climax in Roland Garros than are Madrid’s.

It was that, and overcoming any fatigue issues, that determined his decision to play rather than any qualms about pulling out of a big tournament at such short notice.

“I made my schedule on the basis of my performance on clay in the past couple of years, and I never played that well, so I didn’t expect to play eight matches in the space of 10 days. You don’t really get that in other sports, and with every match played late in the evening in Madrid last week.

“It’s about doing what’s right with a very long period of big events coming up… It’s very difficult to play your best and be there physically every week if you’re winning.

“Novak skipped Madrid last week because of the amount of tennis he’s been playing, some missed Miami. It’s not just this tournament. But if guys are winning a lot of matches, sometimes you need to do what’s best for your body. Worst case scenario is you play too much and injure yourself and you miss the next four to five weeks. And even if you miss two to three weeks, that can significantly affect not only Roland Garros but Wimbledon as well.”

No doubt the tournament was becoming a little edgy about Murray’s ‘will he, won’t he’ stance, but within the hour of his decision, the schedule for the next day was out: Murray will be first to play on Centre Court against Jeremy Chardy.

The No38 Frenchman has beaten Murray once in their six meetings, but they have never played on clay. Murray will no doubt be mindful that Chardy beat Roger Federer in his opening match here last year. He has, though, lost in the first round of his last two tournaments, in Estoril and Madrid.

Second on Centre Court will be Nadal, who plays qualifier Marsel Ilhan, and the evening session is opened by three-time finalist and No2 seed Federer against the No24-ranked Pablo Cuevas, in what promises to be a real tussle. The two men contested the Istanbul title a fortnight ago in their first meeting, with Federer winning 6-3, 7-6(11).

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