Former World No. 1 Andy Murray sits fifth on the all-time list of ATP Masters 1000 titles leaders, with his 14 triumphs spread across seven of the nine tournaments in the elite series, which debuted in 1990. With 34 of his 46 titles coming on hard court, it’s a little surprising that the Scot never took the final step at the BNP Paribas Open, the only non-clay 1000 that he hasn’t won.
Ranked outside the Top 100 and needing a wild card into the main draw, the Scot isn’t dreaming of an elusive title this time around, but he is hoping that a new date and different conditions will allow him to build on the gains made during the recent US Open Series.
“The conditions have changed a bit this year,” Murray said. “Not the speed of the court or the air, but before the balls were extremely light, and combined with the very light air I struggled with that and my results were inconsistent.
“But the balls are getting much heavier, which I really like. I like playing with slow balls in fast conditions. I’m feeling it a lot easier to control the ball.”
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Murray, who has a 216-85 record at Masters 1000 level, including a victory over World No. 4 Alexander Zverev in Cincinnati in August, has a 9-9 record on the year as he continues to work his way back from hip surgery. And many of those losses have come against Top 20 opposition, including Matteo Berrettini (Queen’s), Denis Shapovalov (Wimbledon), Hubert Hurkacz (Cincinnati and Metz), Stefanos Tsitsipas (US Open in five sets) and San Diego champion Casper Ruud last week.
“I’ve had opportunities in those matches that I haven’t taken. Top players snuff out opportunities but there were also things I could have done better,” Murray said.
“The positive is that I haven’t been losing to guys I should be winning against and in the matches I have lost I don’t feel that I have been outclassed or that it wasn’t possible I could win against those players in the future.”
Murray is making his 13th appearance at the event, which was cancelled in 2020 and pushed back from March to October this year due to the pandemic. The World No. 121 has a 25-12 record at the BNP Paribas Open, highlighted by a run to the 2009 final (l. Nadal) and two semi-finals. He last played the event in 2017.
The 2016 year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings will open against French lefty Adrian Mannarino, whom he twice beat in 2015 in their only two ATP Head2Head encounters.
“He is a very tricky player, quite unorthodox and plays differently to most of the guys on Tour,” Murray said. “The majority of players play with heavy topspin and have big, long swings to generate power and spin. He hits very flat off both sides and on the forehand he has probably the shortest swing on Tour. He plays a lot with his timing. His quick lefty serve is difficult as well. It won’t be an easy match.”
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During Wednesday’s pre-tournament media conference, Murray was asked about Great Britain’s breakthrough WTA star Emma Raducanu, who last month won through qualifying to win the US Open title.
Although noting that he had not spent a lot of time on court with the 18-year-old, Murray said that her rapid rise did not surprise him.
“Often what separates the elite athletes from that level just below is that ability to learn quickly and process information. Not everyone can do that, but the top players and the really elite athletes are able to do that,” Murray said.
“I haven’t spent loads of time with her on a tennis court but it wouldn’t surprise me if she picked things up extremely quickly.
“The last 18 months prior to the grass season and Wimbledon she didn’t compete a whole lot, which in some ways allowed her to make some technical changes to her game and develop. Usually around that age, 17 and 18-year-olds are competing a lot. They are on the junior tour and drip feeding into senior tournaments as well. Maybe that period gave her the opportunity to fix some technical issues in her game. She does seem to have improved her serve and forehand.”
Murray has not been beyond the third round of a Masters 1000 tournament since winning the Rolex Paris Masters title in 2016 as part of a 24-match winning streak that culminated in his defeat of Novak Djokovic in the Nitto ATP Finals title match, which decided the year-end No. 1 FedEx ATP Rankings.