LOOK­ING FOR A BOOST

Djokovic and Mur­ray try to re­gain their con­fi­dence in Madrid

New Straits Times - - Sport - MADRID

WHILE Rafael Nadal con­tin­ues to thrive, No­vak Djokovic and Andy Mur­ray are just try­ing to get back in form. The top-ranked Mur­ray and the sec­ond-ranked Djokovic ar­rive for the Madrid Open look­ing to re­gain their con­fi­dence af­ter lack­lus­tre starts to their sea­sons, hop­ing to find their best game in time for the French Open later this month.

Nadal has won two straight ti­tles on clay, while Mur­ray and Djokovic have strug­gled on the sur­face so far.

For de­fend­ing Madrid Open cham­pion Djokovic, the tour­na­ment in Spain will also give him a chance to test his game af­ter part­ing ways with long­time coach Mar­ian Va­jda last week.

“When you start los­ing more matches, you start ques­tion­ing your game, your­self, what you’re do­ing wrong so you can rec­tify that and get bet­ter, turn the ta­bles around,” Djokovic said on Sun­day. “I’ve been very for­tu­nate to ex­pe­ri­ence the up­wards di­rec­tion of my ca­reer ever since I’ve started. This is now a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion a lit­tle bit. In the last six months, I haven’t had too many of great re­sults. That’s why, you know, I’ve felt like I needed some changes and I needed to ap­proach things maybe a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently.”

Djokovic won in Doha to start the year but never made it past the quar­ter-fi­nals in the fol­low­ing four tour­na­ments he played.

Among his losses was a sec­on­dround de­feat to Uzbek­istan’s De­nis Is­tomin in the Aus­tralian Open. He lost to Aus­tralia’s Nick Kyr­gios in the quar­ter-fi­nals in Aca­pulco and in the last 16 in In­dian Wells. In his first clay-court tour­na­ment of the year, Djokovic was elim­i­nated by David Gof­fin in the quar­ter-fi­nals.

“I’ve played so many years on this level that I’m feel­ing com­fort­able on the ten­nis court re­gard­less of these cur­rent changes,” he said. “Gen­er­ally, I mean, I haven’t for­got­ten to hit the ten­nis ball. I’ve con­tin­ued on more or less with the same kind of rou­tine and ap­proach that I’ve had over the years, you know, with cer­tain changes.”

Mur­ray, the run­ner-up to Djokovic in Madrid in 2016, also lost to the Ser­bian in the fi­nal in Doha ear­lier this year.

Mur­ray won in Dubai, but started the clay sea­son try­ing to re­gain his form fol­low­ing a right el­bow in­jury that kept him out of the Mi­ami Open and the Davis Cup quar­ter-fi­nals.

He lost to Al­bert Ramos-Vi­no­las in the third round in Monte Carlo af­ter blow­ing a 4-0 lead in the de­cid­ing set, then was elim­i­nated by Do­minic Thiem in the semi­fi­nals of the Barcelona Open.

“At the be­gin­ning of the clay sea­son, it’s al­ways a bit trick­ier for me than the other sur­faces just be­cause the move­ment isn’t as nat­u­ral on this sur­face for me as it is on the hard courts and the grass courts,” Mur­ray said. “It takes me time. I need to work on that each year when I come back onto it a lot be­fore I feel com­fort­able do­ing it.”

He said he re­mained op­ti­mistic for Madrid and the run-up to Roland Gar­ros de­spite the dis­ap­point­ing re­sult re­cently.

“Ex­pec­ta­tions are high. I want to do well the next few weeks,” Mur­ray said. “In many ways, it’s the most im­por­tant part of the year. There’s a lot of big tour­na­ments that come very quickly, one af­ter the other. I’m mo­ti­vated. The last cou­ple of years, once I’ve got that part of my game right, then I feel like clay does ac­tu­ally suit my game well.”

Mur­ray and Djokovic will likely have to get past a resurg­ing Nadal if they are to win in Madrid.

Nadal won in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, play­ing well in each tour­na­ment. He has won 10 con­sec­u­tive matches and is 21-1 in his past 22 sets.

Next month, the fifth-ranked Spa­niard will try to win a 10th French Open ti­tle. The last of his 14 Grand Slams was three years ago at Roland Gar­ros. AP

When you start los­ing more matches, you start ques­tion­ing your game, your­self, what you’re do­ing wrong so you can rec­tify that and get bet­ter, turn the ta­bles around. NO­VAK DJOKOVIC

In many ways, it’s the most im­por­tant part of the year. There’s a lot of big tour­na­ments that come very quickly, one af­ter the other. I’m mo­ti­vated. ANDY MUR­RAY

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.