Andy Murray’s feat of clay
Having always done well on the surface without ever setting the world alight, Andy Murray has just brought a fitting end to an incredible 2015 clay-court campaign. Lifting the Davis Cup trophy last weekend in Ghent was the icing on the cake after a season which also saw him make the semi-finals at Roland-Garros, win two ATP titles and notch up 17 wins in 18 matches on the slowest of surfaces.
Gaël Monfils, Nicolas Almagro, Fernando Gonzalez, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – twice. That is quite the list of stars, and all of them have one thing in common – namely that they have beaten Andy Murray at Roland-Garros. In other words, you have to be a real clay-court bandit if you are going to knock the Scotsman out of the French Open, even though apparently this is the surface which suits him the least. A little like Lleyton Hewitt back in the day – a player with a similar record overall – "Muzza" is not a clay specialist per se, but he certainly knows how to play on it.
Lest we forget, a teenage Andy left his native Scotland to cut his teeth in Barcelona on the clay of the Sanchez-Casal Academy, at pretty much the same time as two future Roland-Garros champions, Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Murray is an intelligent player with a feel for the ball, and he soon showed the necessary aptitude to compensate for the fact that this was not his “original” surface. He actually won his first main title at junior level on clay – a Grade 1 event in Colombia in 2003 where he outlasted an armada of South-Americans. Since then he has regularly returned to his adopted surface, and even asked two-time Roland-Garros finalist Alex Corretja to work with him between 2008 and 2011.
The best player Britain has had since Fred Perry had already been looking more and more of a threat on clay as the years went by. He made the semi-finals of Roland-Garros in 2011 and again in 2014, the semis in Monte-Carlo in 2009 and 2011, ditto in Rome in 2011… each time coming up short against either Nadal or Djokovic at the penultimate hurdle. In other words, it tended to take another member of the Big Four to halt Murray’s progress, even on clay, and he was getting ever closer to turning near misses into big wins.
Statistically his best surface in 2015!
Quite apart from the Davis Cup last week-end in Ghent on indoor clay – Great Britain’s first title since 1936 – Murray had an incredible 2015 campaign on the surface, winning his maiden clay title in Munich before adding another the following week at the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid, which included a 6-3, 6-2 thrashing of the King of Clay himself – his first win over Nadal on red dirt.
He then made the final four at the French once again, offering brave resistance to Novak Djokovic before falling to his first defeat on clay that year in a fifth set (6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1). It would prove to be the only blot on an otherwise perfect copybook. The world No.2 was faultless in the Davis Cup final against Belgium (taking two points in the singles and adding a victorious doubles rubber), and finished 2015 with 17 wins in 18 matches on clay – a 94.4% success rate. It was his best percentage, ahead of the 93.3% he achieved on Britain’s manicured green lawns, making red dirt Murray’s best surface in 2015!