FOR the last two years Andy Murray has gone into his final tournament before the US Open at the top of his game, but as the world No 4 prepares for this week’s Cincinnati Masters he knows that time is running out if he is to find his form before the concluding Grand Slam event of the season.
Murray fell at the first hurdle in last week’s Montreal Masters, where he looked decidedly ring-rusty against Kevin Anderson, and after deciding to play only two tournaments in the build-up to the US Open, the Scot has given himself little room to manoeuvre.
Part of Murray’s thinking was that he may have peaked too early in his last two summer hard-court seasons in north America. On both occasions he won the first Masters Series title of the campaign in Canada only to falter subsequently in New York.
The US Open, where Murray won the junior title and reached his first senior Grand Slam final three years ago, has traditionally been his favourite event, but on his last two visits he has gone out in the fourth round to Marin Cilic and in the third round to Stanislas Wawrinka.
A good week in Cincinnati would put Murray back on track, though the draw has not made life easy for him. After a first-round bye, his second-round opponent could be David Nalbandian, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has beaten Roger Federer twice this summer, could await in the third, although the Frenchman retired hurt with an arm injury against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals in Montreal on Saturday. Murray is seeded to meet David Ferrer in the quarter-finals and Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.
Like Murray, both Nadal and Federer will be hoping for a better time in Cincinnati than they experienced in Montreal, where both made early exits. Juan Martin del Potro, who beat Federer in the US Open final two years ago, was meeting Italy’s Andreas Seppi last night for the right to face the Swiss in the second round.
Nadal, who lost to Croatia’s Ivan Dodig in his first match in Montreal, appears to have an easier draw, with his fellow Spaniard Guillemo Garcia-Lopez a probable first opponent.
Meanwhile Djokovic, the new world No 1, continues to go from strength to strength. The world No 1 was meeting Mardy Fish in last night’s final in Montreal, where he was hoping to become the first man to win five Masters Series titles in the same year, having lost only once in 53 matches in 2011. Fish, who at No 8 is the highest-placed American in the world rankings, was playing in his third straight final of the summer.
Serena Williams meanwhile took her winning run to 10 matches when she beat Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-3 to reach last night’s final in Toronto, where she was due to play Australia’s Sam Stosur. Williams, who returned to competition in June after 11 months out of the game, won in Stanford last month in her third tournament back and is quickly establishing herself as the favourite to win the US Open for a fourth time.
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