Andy Murray belts away his disappointment on the practice court

After the ochre had been swept and the champagne glasses collected, the Monte Carlo country club echoed to the strains of Andy Murray belting his disappointment to shreds on the practice court.

He will stay until Friday, return to London for a few days rest then get back on the treadmill of the ATP Tour, with memories of defeat by Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters fading with each muscular forehand.

He is not too upset about giving up his world No2 ranking, more concerned about finding his feet on this trickiest of surfaces. The transition from hard court to clay to grass in the space of a few months is one of the enduring challenges of the game, and handling it is a science.

Overseeing the rehab of Murray's game is Ivan Lendl, who mastered clay in his playing days, while never fully coming to terms with grass. He wants Murray to hit as many balls as humanly possible, in practice and in competition in Madrid and Rome, to reach a perfect pitch at Roland Garros at the end of May. "I am just looking for volume," he said. "I think Andy understands that as well. He needs to play sets, he needs to spend time on clay. Two days ago [practising with Tomas Berdych] he was sliding and losing balance a bit, today he was better.

"It was different ball coming back from Berdych than from Dani [Vallverdu, Murray's long-time hitting partner] and me, but he looks more comfortable moving around – and that means he will hit better shots as well. If you feel like you're not moving well, you have to go for shots you wouldn't go for normally, so you can be more patient."

That was painfully evident against Wawrinka, as Murray's game slowly lost shape – although he did not have a total meltdown, as here three years ago against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Nevertheless, he knows he was a level or two removed from Novak Djokovic, who said the first eight games of his final against Rafael Nadal were among the best he had played on clay.

Nadal's first defeat here in eight years shocked many but not Djokovic. If he stays in the mood, he will be hell to play in Paris. Murray, meanwhile, has to get his own game in shape and Lendl sees reasons to be upbeat. And, he stressed, it's far from a gloomy scene.

"Time will make him better and then he will see it and then he will believe," he said. "It's just repetition and amount. It doesn't have to be boring. We had fun today. I try to make practices fun all the time, whether the joke is on Dani or Andy or me, I don't really care as long as we can have a chuckle." Yet he knows Murray can be unnecessarily hard on him when the ball is not leaving his racket cleanly, as against Wawrinka.

"I haven't spoken to him about it," Lendl said. "I think he knows. We don't need to discuss it. I think it comes from him expecting so much. You saw it even today, he is playing for a minute and a half and he misses a shot and he gets mad at himself because he doesn't want to miss – ever. And I think what happens on the court, since he hasn't had enough time, he hits some shots then he misses some shots and plays a bad game and he gets really disappointed with himself. Then he has trouble overcoming that."

Lendl has a clear take on Murray world ranking and who will figure in the slam finals this year. "It is hard to see anybody but the top four boys," he said, "even though it could be a little different with Rafa being [seeded] fifth. That could really skew the draws. It could be that Andy ends up in the bottom half by himself, if he is seeded No2. It could be Novak playing Rafa in the quarters to play Roger in the semis and somebody beats Andy. If Rafa is seeded fifth, it could be No3 [against] No2, and all of a sudden they beat up on each other."

Powered by article was written by Kevin Mitchell in Monte Carlo, for The Guardian on Monday 22nd April 2013 20.10 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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