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Andy Murray: Can He Break Through and Capture a Major Clay-Court Title?

Van Sias@@Van_SiasContributor IIIApril 16, 2012

Photo: The Associated Press
Photo: The Associated Press

At this week's Masters Series 1000 event in Monte Carlo, all eyes are on the top two seeds, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

No. 3 seed Andy Murray, however, aims to make sure he isn't overlooked as he goes for the first clay-court title of his career.

Will Monte Carlo be the place for him to pull off that feat?

Over the years, as he's solidified his standing among the ATP World Tour's "Big 4" (Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer stand in front of him in the rankings), Murray has shown great improvement on the red dirt. He's a two-time Monte Carlo semifinalist (2009 and '11), and for the first time last year he reached the semis of the premier clay-court tournament, the French Open.

Traditionally, Murray hasn't been thought of as an automatic favorite to win a big event on clay, which is contrary to the way he's regarded on hard courts and grass. However, he does have a bit of a clay-court pedigree, essentially developing his game in Spain on the dirt.

And while playing against professionals who were raised on clay is a tough task, Murray's willingness to improve has helped him make great strides. He regularly plays a full clay-court schedule now, and he's been known to seek coaching advice from former standouts on the crushed brick: two-time French Open finalist Alex Corretja and three-time Roland Garros winner Ivan Lendl.

The new partnership that kicked off at the beginning of the season between Lendl and Murray has brought forth some impressive results. Now, it's time to see what kind of rewards can be reaped during one of the toughest stretches of the tennis season.

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Murray has the ability to win a tournament on any surface. If he does so this week at Monte Carlo, perhaps he will have an even more solid chance at the Grand Slam he's been tagged as least likely to win.

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