Murray hopes more clay practice time pays off
Losing might have helped Andy Murray prepare to win.
The Australian Open runner-up believes his failure to win a match in three straight tournaments may benefit his clay-court season, enabling him to get two weeks of practice on his least-favorite surface.
Murray hasn't even won a set since losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final, going out early at Rotterdam, the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells and the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.
''My original plan was not to lose in the (second) round of Indian Wells and Miami,'' Murray said Monday. ''Because I didn't do well in Miami, I was able to get two weeks of practice on the clay before here.''
The fourth-ranked Brit has never won a title on clay. His best run was reaching the French Open quarterfinals in 2009, lagging behind five-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, 2009 winner Roger Federer and two-time semifinalist Novak Djokovic.
''It's been the surface that I haven't done as well as the other guys, like Rafa, Roger or Novak. I've been definitely behind them,'' Murray said. ''I want to give myself a shot of doing well. It's not just a part of the season I want to get through and not worry about the results.''
Murray begins his clay season in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic after accepting a wild-card invitation.
He started practicing on the surface before he arrived in Monaco last Thursday in a bid to start well rather than build up slowly as he usually does.
''The last few years, I had no plan to get ready for the clay,'' Murray said. ''Because it's a surface I haven't played on much, I wanted to do a small 10-day training block to get used to the movement.
''Always by the end of the clay-court season, I was feeling good. Felt like I was moving well, playing much better. But the first two tournaments (on clay), even though I did well here a few years ago, I was kind of getting by maybe more on confidence than playing well on this surface.''
One of the most athletic players on tour, Murray admits he is still working out his best approach on clay.
''It's a surface you need patience on. You can't just hit the ball on the court, otherwise you have to do so much running,'' he said. ''Shot selection is definitely different than it is on the other surfaces. Changing the speed of the ball, the height of the ball.''
Right now, figuring all that out is more important than picking a new coach. Murray split with part-time consultant Alex Corretja last month after working with him for three years to improve his clay game.
''I'm trying to concentrate on playing just now. I'm not going to be making phone calls and thinking about it too much,'' Murray said. ''After Barcelona, I've got a week off, so that will be a time where I might have a little bit more thought about it.''