Sunday, March 11, 2012

Murray stumbles in Indian Wells opener for second year running

Photo credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok

Andy Murray may be miles away from his post-Oz-Open slump from last year, but the Scot still lost his opening match at Indian Wells yesterday to mimic his result in the Californian desert from 2011.

The world No4 lost to Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 6-2 last night in 1hr 40 mins serving at 48% first serves and failing to convert any of his 7 break point opportunities.

I had asked Murray in Dubai a couple of weeks ago if he was excited about the prospect of not defending any points in Indian Wells and Miami, which would give him a chance to earn some major ranking points if he performed well there this year and he said:

"That's normally where I've played my best.I've normally played well over in the States on the hardcourts there, but struggled the last couple years.

"I prefer the hardcourts over in Asia and Australia. Just feel like the courts have changed a little bit in the States. So it might be something to do with that.

"But I feel better at this stage than I did last year, and hopefully that will get some results."

In the last two years, Murray made the Indian Wells quarters in 2010 (lost to Soderling) and fell in his first match to Donald Young in straights in 2011. In Miami, he stumbled in his opening round in both 2010 and 2011. I guess he really doesn't feel that comfortable there anymore, which is surprising since he told us in Dubai that he practices at Key Biscayne all the time (this year he split his time between Delray Beach and Key Biscayne).

Murray said after his loss to Garcia-Lopez last night:

"I didn't move my best tonight, but it didn't feel like I was moving really badly. My return let me down, and he hardly missed the ball, either. That's the thing. The level of tennis nowadays you get no easy first round matches and you play poor match, that's what happens. So can't allow it to happen. I don't know exactly why because I was playing really, really good tennis the whole of the week and the buildup to it."

The 24-year-old will now try to regain his Dubai runner-up form in Miami, which he won in 2009. But something tells me he isn't really expecting much going in.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

DUBAI: Feliciano Lopez eager for Olympics on grass

Spanish heartthrob Feliciano Lopez is at a career-high ranking at No15 and is reaping the benefits of getting older and equally wiser.

Like a few other players in the top-ten dancing around either side of 30, Lopez tries to explain how his tennis continues to get better without letting his 30 years of age slow him down.

“I feel 100 per cent physically which is probably the most important thing right now,” Lopez told me by the pool at the Aviation Club on Tuesday.

“I avoided injuries during my career. Some of the players if you see them they are always down because of the injuries. So I’m so lucky with this part.

“I have more experience, I play more calm, which is very important for me. A few things that make me play better and better.”

The Toledo-born has quite a unique game for a Spaniard, as he thrives on fast surfaces unlike his clay-court-loving countrymen, and he’s excelled in Dubai his very first trip out here, making the quarters on debut in 2003, before finishing runner-up in 2004 and again in 2008.

He says: “Somehow these conditions (in Dubai) are good for my game. The second year I came here I reached the final so I’m always very happy to come here, this is a great tournament, so I think that’s what makes me play good here.

“I try to enjoy, go for dinner outside, go to Burj Khalifa. Yesterday we went to the Palm in the afternoon because we had a few hours off, so we had the chance to go there, because my coach had never seen it before. He was so happy to be there.”

Considering how well he’s been doing, Lopez is still hoping to move onwards and upwards as he eyes a good run at the Olympics this summer at Wimbledon – a venue where he’s made the quarter-finals three times.

He says: “I have the Olympic Games. I already played in Athens, but I would love to play there. Because of the place where it’s going to be – at Wimbledon and that’s my favourite surface. So I have a really good chance to play my second Olympic Games on grass at 30 years old, it’s a great opportunity for me. And of course to reach the top ten in my career, that would be a nice goal.”

DUBAI: Mardy Fish is in search of last year's form

Mardy Fish is the only top-eight seed not to advance to the quarter-finals in Dubai after the American suffered a 6-2, 7-6 (7/0) defeat to Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny.

The No6 seed, who was making his debut in the UAE, has not won back-to-back matches this season where he lost in the second round of the Australian Open to Alejandro Falla before falling to unheralded Frenchman Albano Olivetti in his opening match in Marseille last week.

A frustrated Fish, who had a breakthrough season last year becoming the No1 American and breaking the top-ten for the first time, says he is inexplicably low on confidence.

He said of his loss to Youzhny: “He’s a good player, it’s no disgrace to lose to someone like him. It’s just frustrating to lose. The start to the year – Davis Cup was a blast – but I had a rough trip. Lost a couple of matches that sting a little bit going into Indian Wells and Miami, which are the big ones.

“Confidence is such a big part of sport, and when you just lose that a little bit, it’s a big difference from No8 in the world, or top-ten player, you know playing top-ten tennis last summer and obviously all last year, to lost that little bit, and just one or two matches, like the match in Australia that I played, it kind of opens your eyes a little bit.

“It’s been a few months where I haven’t strung together a few tournaments, and that gets you, at any level, whether you’re playing a Future or a World Tour Final. A loss is a loss. It still hurts.

“These are good courts for me. It’s a good tournament and I want to do well. I want to turn the corner. I’ll put in the work, it’s just frustrating to lose.

“Youzhny likes the fast courts, ball stays low, he hits the ball flat and when he times it well and when he’s playing well, he’s tough to beat. It’s not a bad loss but you know I beat these guys last year, especially on this court.

“I made those shots for the past ten months and for some reason I haven’t this year.

“A lot of it is confidence, just in the back of your mind. It’s a fickle thing and when you struggle it’s frustrating because I’ve had some injuries and when you don’t have injuries you want to maximize and you want to do well.”