28 Aug 2013

Andy Murray begins defence of US Open title

Andy Murray plays his first round match at the US Open later in New York, the scene of his first grand slam victory 12 months ago.

Andy Murray practising in New York ahead of his US Open defence. (Getty)

Fred Perry just won’t go away, will he? Andy Murray spent years trying to become the first British man to win a tennis grand slam in singles since Perry in the 1930s. Now he has two under his belt he must travel the globe being the first man to defend one since the days of long trousers and cigarettes between games.

“There’s less pressure,” he told reporters in New York, but added “I expect to be pretty nervous because it [defending a major title] is a new experience”.

The British number one won his first Wimbledon title in July and has reached the finals of the last four slams he has entered, only missing the French Open because of a back injury.

The champion has been kept waiting this week at Flushing Meadows but will finally begin his defence late tonight when he takes on eccentric Frenchman Michael Llodra (at midnight UK time) – a full 48 hours after Rafael Nadal’s first round match.

Llodra, 33, is unlikely to pose a threat to last year’s winner. He is better known for on-court pranks and his love of wine. A serve and volley specialist, the Parisian will present Murray the chance to practise his favourite stroke – the passing shot. He has never beaten Murray and retires at the end of the year.

Murray is seeded third behind world number one Novak Djokovic and a resurgent Nadal who, since his early exit at Wimbledon, has been racking up tour titles – nine so far in 2013 and two in the last month alone – allowing him to leapfrog Murray in the world rankings.

Numbers game

An obvious next target for Murray is to become world number one but, unlike Nadal, the 26-year-old has not shown much consistency in tournaments outside the slams to accumulate points.

Murray says that is because grand slam titles will always be his priority.

“Everyone is motivated by different things. My whole career for four, five, six years, it was about winning grand slams. That was what gave me the motivation to train.

“When I did lose in a grand slam, that was what was most disappointing for me. I could win a Masters series event and the first question I would get asked when I came in [to the press conference] was, ‘When are you going to win a grand slam?’

Because it took me such a long time to (win a grand slam), I know how hard they are to win, I might as well enjoy the challenge of trying to do it now. Andy Murray

“It wasn’t, ‘When are you going to get to number one?’ That became my motivation, to try to win grand slams, so that, I would imagine, would be the case for the rest of my career.”

Speaking to the New York Times, Murray said that winning the Australian Open title is a major goal as well as reaching the final of the French Open.

Murray has made the final in Melbourne three times but lost each one, once to Roger Federer and twice to Djokovic.

Murray said: “Because it took me such a long time to [win a grand slam], I know how hard they are to win, I might as well enjoy the challenge of trying to do it now.

“The Australian Open would be a big goal because I’ve been to the final there three times, and a semi-final with Novak on top of that. I’d love to try and win there. And obviously the French Open, trying to reach the final there as well, would be another goal.

“To play in all four slam finals, I would be able to say, having played in the Olympic final as well, that I’ve at least given myself an opportunity to compete for all the major trophies in my career.”