Andy Murray returns to the Madrid Masters with different expectations after his breakthrough win at the tournament a year ago.
Murray won in Madrid last season for his first ever Masters title on clay, a surface he struggled on for most of his career. He has turned things around since then, and is again a favorite this week when he has a chance to boost his confidence even further heading into Roland Garros in three weeks.
"I think expectations for me have changed obviously because of last year," said the second-ranked Murray, who is coming off a semifinal appearance on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters last month, where he lost in three sets to Rafael Nadal.
"Winning is important. I won on the clay last year which was good, but it was more the way I played, I played very well," Murray said. "Even in Monte Carlo, the match against (Milos) Raonic (in the quarterfinals), and also for large parts the match against Rafa, was very good."
Murray also won on clay in Munich last year. He has only two career titles on the surface, both last season.
"That gives me belief, but also I then expect to play better than I maybe did in the past," Murray said. "I don't see any reason why I can't maintain that level and give myself a chance in the next few events."
Murray didn't drop a set against three top-10 opponents last year in Madrid, including Nadal in the final.
"My preparation last year was probably the best it's ever been for the clay," Murray said. "I spent two weeks in Barcelona training on clay, which enabled me to really work on my tactics and movement. I also won my first tournament in Munich the week before, so I had a lot of confidence going into Madrid."
The 28--year-old Murray lost to Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open last year. He has never reached the final at Roland Garros.
Murray will debut in Madrid against either qualifier Radek Stepanek or 47th-ranked Vasek Pospisil. He could face 18th-ranked Gilles Simon in the third round, and either eighth-ranked Tomas Berdych or ninth-ranked David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.
A rematch against Nadal could take place in the semifinals, and the final could be against Djokovic, his nemesis at the Australian Open final earlier this year.
Murray practiced with both Nadal and Djokovic ahead of the tournament in Madrid.
"I think everyone prepares for tournaments to try to give themselves the best chance to play well when the tournament starts," Murray said. "Getting to practice with the best player in the world is great preparation for me. I've had some good practices against the best players. That's very important. I don't get that when I'm back home, so I need to make the most of it when I'm at these events."
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