Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Wimbledon hero chasing down Novak Djokovic's World No.1 crown

Andy Murray of Great Britain hits a forehand during the Gentlemen's Singles Final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 7, 2013
Serbia's Novak Djokovic

Wimbledon may be over, but the tennis treadmill never stops turning. Now is no time for a Wimbledon champion to rest on his laurels and within the next month Andy Murray will be focusing on the North American hard-court circuit and in particular the defence of his US Open title.

Although Roger Federer, fresh from his early Wimbledon exit, will be playing on clay this month in Hamburg and Gstaad, most of the top players take a break in the weeks after Wimbledon, having been on the road almost continuously since the start of the European clay-court season in April. Without an Olympic tournament this year, the US Open will be the major target for all the top men between now and the end of the season.

Before the year's final Grand Slam event there are two Masters Series tournaments, in Montreal and Cincinnati, where Murray will be expected to make his return. He has enjoyed success in the past at both events, which are usually good form guides ahead of the US Open at Flushing Meadows. The tournament in New York, where Murray won his only Grand Slam junior title, has always been one of the Scot's favourite events and it was no surprise that he made his Grand Slam breakthrough there last year.

He can expect some fierce competition when the tournament starts at the end of next month. Rafael Nadal, who appeared to be suffering knee trouble when he made his shock first-round exit from Wimbledon, can be expected to have returned to the fray by then, while Federer will be bristling at the chance to make amends for his own early departure from the All England Club.

With Murray and Novak Djokovic usually at their best on outdoor hard courts, it promises to be quite an event. Within four days of the US Open final Murray is expected to lead Britain's team in their Davis Cup World Group play-off against Croatia in the Mediterranean resort of Umag.

The tie will be played on clay, which the Croatians clearly reckon gives them their best chance against Murray, who nevertheless has said he intends to play in the tie. Thereafter, Murray's main focus will be the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in November, which brings together the year's most successful eight players. Murray has never gone beyond the semi-finals in the season-ending event and would love to finish the year on a high in front of his home crowd.

Before the World Tour Finals Murray will compete in the season's last two Masters Series tournaments, in Shanghai and Paris.

He is also likely to play in at least one other tournament during the post-New York Asian swing. Last year he played in Tokyo and he has also played in Bangkok in the past. Although six-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic maintains a healthy lead at the top of the world rankings, even after yesterday's defeat, Murray might start to think again about the possibility of achieving another of his lifetime's ambitions. Although missing the recent French Open through injury put a serious dent in his hopes of becoming world No. 1 this year, the Scot could now have the target back in his sights.

Much will depend on how both men fare at the US Open, though they will also be aware of the threat that eight-time French Open champion Nadal could pose to their positions in the world order. The fact that the Spanish former world No. 1 did not play any tournaments between last year's Wimbledon and February this year means that he has huge scope to increase his points total in the coming months, provided his fitness is not an issue.

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