Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
Murray Impressive In '09 Clay Opener
by ATP Staff|
Fourth-seeded Scot Andy Murray made a smooth transition from North American hard courts to European clay at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Tuesday, knocking out No. 35-ranked Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-3, 6-2 in just 86 minutes for a place in the third round of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament.
Watched by two-time Roland Garros runner-up Alex Corretja, who is working as Murray’s clay-court consultant for a second successive year, the 21 year old won 74 per cent of first service points and converted five of 10 break point opportunities. Murray improved to 27-2 on the season, highlighted by three ATP World Tour titles and one runner-up finish.
"I thought I played well," reflected Murray. "I thought I moved pretty good and returned well. I hope with each match I just start to remember how to play on clay. I'm sure I'll keep getting better."
World No. 4 Murray has come into the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament just 170 points behind No. 3 Novak Djokovic in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings. He could supplant Djokovic as the third-best player in the world rankings on Monday, dependent on results this week. Murray next will meet either Italian qualifier Fabio Fognini or No. 14 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia.
The 27-year-old Hanescu, who captured his maiden ATP World Tour title at Gstaad (d. Andreev) in July 2008, dropped to 7-11 on the season that has been highlighted by two quarter-final exits at Doha (l. to Roddick) and last week in Casablanca (l. to eventual champion Ferrero). He falls to 3-16 lifetime against Top 10 opponents.
In Murray’s quarter of the draw, Argentine David Nalbandian avoided his third first-round exit this year by dealing French hopes yet another blow on day three.
Having watched sixth seed Gilles Simon and ninth seed Gael Monfils make an early trip to Nice airport, French support watched Nalbandian record his fourth straight win over Paul-Henri Mathieu, a former World No. 12, in two hours.
Nalbandian hit nine aces (and 10 doubles faults) in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win that gave the World No. 15 just his 11th win of the season. In January 27-year-old Nalbandian clinched his 10th ATP World Tour title at Sydney (d. Nieminen).
Djokovic, who holds a 170-point lead over World No. 4 Andy Murray in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, won 70 per cent of service points and converted five of 14 break point opportunities to take his place in the third round where he will meet either Monaco wild card Jean-Rene Lisnard or Albert Montanes of Spain.
"[It was a] really good start," said Djokovic. "I didn't quite expect to perform that good, considering the fact that I didn't have any matches, singles matches, on this surface, and I had very little time to make this transition. But I was really playing aggressive and patient at the same time. This combination is really important for this surface. So hopefully I can continue."
The 21-year-old Monte-Carlo resident is making his fourth straight tournament appearance (5-3 record) and is hoping to better last year’s semi-final exit (l. to Federer) this week. A recent runner-up at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami (l. to Murray), Djokovic has a 23-8 record on the season. He captured his 12th ATP World Tour title at Dubai (d. Ferrer) in February.
Hernandez, currently No. 65 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, dropped to 5-9 lifetime at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments and is 4-11 on the 2009 ATP World Tour season – highlighted by a quarter-final exit in Acapulco (l. to Acasuso).
Another winner in Djokovic’s quarter of the draw was 10th-seeded David Ferrer of Spain, a four-time quarter-finalist in Monte-Carlo, who overcame compatriot Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-3 in 70 minutes on Court des Princes. Ferrer snapped a three-match losing streak against Lopez by recording his first win since Tokyo in October 2007. The World No. 12 improved to 18-7 on the season.
Ferrer will next meet Marc Gicquel, France’s only remaining representative in the singles draw after an exodus on Tuesday. In the early evening Florent Serra joined sixth seed Gilles Simon, ninth seed Gael Monfils and Paul-Henri Mathieu as casualties on day three, after big-serving Croatian Ivo Karlovic triumphed 6-4, 6-4.
Former ATP World No. 1 Marat Safin denied former two-time ATP World Tour Champion Lleyton Hewitt his 500th career win, which would have made the Australian one of three active players – Roger Federer (634) and Carlos Moya (573) – to have broken the mark. Safin fired 10 aces past wild card Hewitt for a 6-4, 7-5 win in one hour and 36 minutes, which tied their career series 7-7.
Hewitt captured his first ATP World Tour title since March 2007 on Sunday at Houston. Because the Houston final was delayed due to rain, Hewitt missed his flight to Europe and had to wait until Monday to fly to Nice. The 28 year old was picked up from the airport and arrived on court in the nick of time. It was his first appearance in Monte-Carlo since 2004.
Safin, No. 21 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, goes on to meet Ecuadorian qualifier Nicolas Lapentti on Wednesday.
"[Lapentti is a] tough opponent," said Safin. "We played only once nine years ago. Tough player. Got back to Top 50, I guess. He knows how to play. Has a lot of experience. We'll see how it goes. I think he's playing pretty well."
Beck first served for the opening set at 5-4, before Simon flickered into action. But, ultimately, the 24 year old won just 30 of 64 service points and paid the price – losing six games in a row in the second set – to fall to 14-10 this year. It is Simon’s second opening-round loss of 2009 (also Sydney, l. to Gasquet) and he drops to 30-25 lifetime at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments.
“This match was completely rotten from the first to the last point,” lamented Simon. “I'm surprised myself. I felt at ease on this surface. I was moving well. But I don't remember ever playing so badly. Nothing was right. Nothing was working. My forehand, my backhand, my serve, nothing.”
For 23-year-old Beck, who is competing at only his third tour-level tournament of the season, it was his first career win over a Top 10 opponent (1-3 lifetime). He next will meet Argentine Juan Monaco, who ousted No. 11 seed Tommy Robredo of Spain 6-2, 6-4.
Ninth-seeded Monfils led Tipsarevic 3-1 before losing five straight games and the 40-minute first set. Monfils, who is suffering from tendonitis in both his knees, never recovered and made his fourth first-round exit in five appearances at the tournament – much to the disappointment of the crowd – in just 67 minutes.
“There's not much to say about that match,” said Monfils, who was broken five times in total and drops to 15-8 on the season. “I'm just trying to get used to clay-court conditions. I need to work more with Roger (Rasheed) and then confidence will come back.”
World No. 56 Tipsarevic – who also beat Monfils at an ATP World Tour Challenger in Zagreb two years ago – will next meet Italian Simone Bolelli.
Elsewhere Fabio Fognini joined Beck as a qualifier who has recorded his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament match-win this week. The No.108th-ranked Italian delighted local support by defeating World No. 25 Tomas Berdych 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in just under two hours in only the second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of his career. Fognini goes on to meet No. 14 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia in the second round.
Another big-name casualty was No. 16 seed Nicolas Almagro, who compiled a 30-8 clay-court record (most wins) last year. Spanish compatriot and World No. 36 Albert Montanes handed Almagro a 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-6(5) defeat in two hours and 30 minutes.
Despite hitting 12 aces and winning 65 per cent of service points in his second ATP World Tour tournament since lifting the Acapulco trophy (d. Monfils) in February, Almagro was unable to capitalise on five break point opportunities and 10 double faults from the Montanes racquet.
His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco was the guest of honour at the Monte-Carlo Country Club on Tuesday.