Andy Murray believes he is in the form of his life as he prepares to kick off his grass court campaign in the Wimbledon warm-up tournament at Queen’s Club.
– #QUIZ360: WIN one-month gym membership at FitRepublik
– Rafael Nadal beats Viktor Troicki to win Stuttgart Open
– ON THE RADAR, June 15-21: Elite Squash Festival
Murray arrives for the west London event in fine fettle after winning his first clay titles in Madrid and Munich before reaching the French Open semi-finals.
After a frustrating 2014 marred by recovery from back surgery and an unwanted parting with coach Ivan Lendl, there is a real spring in Murray’s step again.
The 28-year-old Scot has been in a rich vein of form since marrying Kim Sears two months ago and took great encouragement from the way he pushed Novak Djokovic to five sets in Paris.
— British Tennis (@BritishTennis) June 14, 2015
And he says he is finally back to the peak performances that brought him grand slam titles at the US Open and Wimbledon.
“Last year was very difficult because the first six months were hard coming off the surgery. I maybe didn’t expect it to be that hard,” Murray said.
“But this year I’ve felt ready to win major competitions again. It’s huge progress from where I was last year. The grass suits my play much more than clay and hopefully if I can take the form from the clay onto grass I can have good results.”
Still Murray knows it would be unwise to make too many bold predictions about his chances of winning a fourth Queen’s title or second Wimbledon crown.
“In Australia I felt I was playing very good tennis, similar to the level when I won in New York, then the clay was the best I’ve played and closest I’ve come to reaching the final in Paris,” said Murray, who faces qualifier Yen-Hsun Lu in the Queen’s first round.
“But things change in a few days. No one would have thought Stan (Wawrinka) would end up winning in Paris. So just because I’m playing well now it doesn’t mean I’m going to be playing well in a couple of weeks.
“Likewise if I played badly here it doesn’t mean I’m going to have a bad Wimbledon.”
Rafael Nadal earned his second title of the season and his fourth on grass as he defeated Serb Viktor Troicki 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 on Sunday to become the first man to triumph on both clay and turf at the Stuttgart Open.
The Spanish top seed set another minor record, as he won the inagural grass edition after taking clay trophies here in 2005 and 2007. Stuttgart made the switch to grass starting with this edition as part of the new Wimbledon pre-season.
Nadal’s 66th career title marked his second in 2015 after claiming a trophy on South American clay last February. The Spaniard now owns two grass titles at Wimbledon plus 2008 Queen’s Club, London and now Stuttgart.
The 14-time grand slam champion who is ranked 10th, polished his record against eighth seed Troicki to 5-0, last facing the Serb in a Tokyo semi-final nearly five years ago. Nadal took victory as he played his his 95th career final, now standing 66-29 in finals.
His last grass final came at Wimbledon in 2011 when he lost to Novak Djokovic. Troicki was playing his seventh career final – and first on grass – and now stands 2-5 in title matches.
Nadal’s victory boosted him to 33-10 this season as he prepares for what he hopes is a better second half of 2015. He is now 17-2 in Stuttgart, where he last competed eight years ago.
“I’m not bothered by the expectations of others,” said the 29-year-old. “I’m only motivated by my own goals, There is no pressure on me.”
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) June 14, 2015
“It’s fantastic to win here on grass after winning on clay. Victor is a tough opponent.
“But I’ve been gaining confidence over the past month and a half after a very poor first three and a half months of this season.
“I’ve been feeling my game better since after my first match in Monte Carlo (mid-April). It was mentally tiring for me to play tennis in the first part of the year. I was not feeling comfortable on court.
“I was not able to play the way that I wanted. I didn’t feel confidence. But that has been changing and my focus now if to prepare as best as I can for Wimbledon.”
Nadal added: “My level has always been there, I’ve not forgotten how to play tennis. But now things are coming together for me.”
Nadal spent 48 minutes in winning the opening set, which he took into a tiebreaker with a love game. The top seed grabbed the early 4-2 lead in the decider and fired a ninth ace to wrap up the opener.
In the second, the Spaniard broke for 3-1 and took victory on his third match point, ending with 11 aces in the 88-minute contest.
Rafael Nadal moved into position to become a dual-surface champion at the Stuttgart Open yesterday with a 6-3, 6-4 semi-final defeat of Gael Monfils.
– #Quiz360: WIN one-month gym membership at FitRepublik
– Gaston Gaudio: Falling out of love with tennis
– #360view: Wawrinka’s mercurial genius is worth waiting for
Victory in under 90 minutes on the newly-laid grass courts of the pre-Wimbledon event paved a path for Nadal to lift his third title in Stuttgart after winning in 2005 and 2007 when the tournament was still played on clay.
Top seed Nadal will take on surprise finalist Viktor Troicki, who battled for more than two hours to overcome Croatian second seed and US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (7/2).
Nadal owns two Wimbledon crowns and also won at Queen’s in 2008. The left-hander will be bidding for the 66th trophy of his
career but only the second this season.
Nadal came through over Monfils on the first of two match points as the French fourth seed sailed a forehand over the baseline.
Unable to find an ace in the contest, Nadal however made no double-faults and saved all four of the break points he faced as he beat Monfils for the 11th time in 13 meetings.
The win was effortless in contrast to the struggles Nadal went through in his first two matches this week, spending a combined five hours on court to win six sets.
“I’m very happy with this performance,” said the 29-year-old Spaniard. “I’m slowly improving on grass. It would be fantastic to win here, but I can only focus on the final and try to play my best.”
He added: “I was feeling better with my tennis after the first two matches this week, it is always tough to start on this surface.
“I played aggressive and did what I had to do to keep my level high. I’ve not been in a grass final since 2011 (Wimbledon, losing to Novak Djokoic). This is important for me.
“I’m enjoying being in this final and I’ll hope to be ready tomorrow.”
Serbian Troicki was overwhelmed to have done so well this week. “It’s my first grass court final and I’m really excited to have gotten here.
“It was a great match, I served very well and used my slice. The match was even most of the time but I was able to use a couple of chances to make the difference.”