Murray faces tough start to title defense

Murray faces tough start to title defense

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Murray faces tough start to title defense

Andy Murray of Britain signs autographs to fans after a practice session for the Japan Open tennis championships in Tokyo. Murray hopes to defend his titie this week. REUTERS photo

In-form Andy Murray will defend the Japan Open starting today fresh from winning his first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, but he faces a tricky encounter in the form of a resurgent Gael Monfils.

The 25-year-old Murray, the top seed in Tokyo, enjoyed a double victory by beating Rafael Nadal of Spain in the final last year and then came back on court to add the doubles title with his brother Jamie.
Since then he won his first Slam at Flushing Meadows earlier this month by beating defending champion Novak Djokovic in a thrilling four-hour, 53-minute final. Prior to that the Briton took gold at the London Games.

But Monfils of France, runner-up in Tokyo in 2010, represents a difficult start. The winner faces Albert Ramos of Spain or Lukas Lacko of Slovakia in the second round.

“I have a tough first-round match against Monfils. I played him five times and lost to him a couple of times. He is a great athlete, so that’s a tough match to start,” said Murray.

“Also I play the doubles with my brother. We managed to win the tournament last year. I hope we can have another good tournament.”

‘A little bit’ tired

Murray has a 3-2 win-loss record against Monfils, who is targeting a return to the top 10 in the world as he steps up his return from a knee injury that kept him out for four months. Murray admitted that he is “a little bit” tired after winning the U.S. Open, as the season reaches its climax. He spent two-and-a-half weeks at home with friends and family after New York.

“I think a lot of players are at this stage a little bit tired mentally and physically as well. You need to find the best way of managing that for the last couple of months of the year,” said Murray. “I also would like to play well in the tour finals in London. I didn’t have the chance to do that last year. It was a very disappointing way to finish the year.

 “I want to make sure I’m 100 percent fit for that tournament.”