Andy Murray's Tough Indian Wells Draw Will Force Him to Play His Best Early

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

Andy Murray returns a shot against Novak Djokovic in the BNP Paribas Showdown Tennis Tournament on Monday, March 3, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

Andy Murray's draw for the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells is not necessarily ideal for a man still recovering from back surgery.

Not only may he have to take on world No. 1 Rafael Nadal as early as the quarter-finals in the year's first Masters series event, but just to get that far he also could face the likes of Milos Raonic, Jerzy Janowicz and Lukas Rosol, who put Nadal out of Wimbledon in 2012.

Given a bye into the second round, it is his relatively low rank of sixth that has given him such a challenging draw in a tournament in which he has lost his first game twice in the last three years.

However, such challenging opponents so early on (Rosol will likely be his first opponent on Saturday or Sunday) can only be good for Murray as he attempts to return to the type of form that saw him win Wimbledon last year.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - FEBRUARY 23: Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine during the ATP Rio Open 2014 at Jockey Club Rio de Janeiro on February 23, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Coming back from an injury is never easy, but if Murray is forced to play his best early on it will only speed up his long-term improvement back to top form.

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Speaking at a press conference before the tournament and after reaching the semi-finals in the Mexican Open last week, Murray is confident he is getting back to full fitness:

The first few tournaments back were hard but my body feels good now. Last week in Acapulco I played four matches in four days, three three-set matches, which didn't start until late. I woke up the next day and felt fine for the first time since the surgery. That shows I am starting to recover properly though which is great.

With his body returning to full fitness, the best thing for Murray is to be playing against top opposition, especially as this competition is just one half of back-to-back Masters events in March.

Following straight on the back of Indian Wells is the Miami Masters, the two events comprising the last hard-court events before spring sees the clay tournaments come around.

If Murray can make an impact at Indian Wells, he will be full of confidence going into the clay season and on toward Wimbledon.

SAN DIEGO, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  Andy Murray of  Great Britain runs in to play a backhand against Sam Querrey of the United States during day three of the Davis Cup World Group first round between the U.S. and Great Britain at PETCO Park on February 2, 2014
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

To be the best you have to play against the best, and it is far better to have the preparation against the top players in case of a match up in one of the major tournaments.

If the 26-year-old Scot can come out flying at Indian Wells, he could set himself up for a year that could well bring him even more success than 2013. 

Having performed well in reaching the semi-finals in Acapulco last week, Olympic gold medallist Murray now has some tough tests to take on in the "fifth Grand Slam."