DUBAI // Andy Murray, favourite to add the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championship to those he won last month in Abu Dhabi and Doha, was a shock withdrawal from the US$2million (Dh7.34m) tournament last night. The British No 1 has been struggling to shake off a virus which he contracted during the Australian Open four weeks ago, and the illness flared up again as he was preparing for last night's quarter- final against the Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Aviation Club.
Murray felt he had no alternative but to add his name to the star-studded casualty list at what has become a jinxed event. Five of the world's top-10 men -including the two main attractions Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer -pulled out before a ball was struck and now Murray, who arrived in the UAE nursing an ankle injury, has followed suit. He declared that the sore ankle which bothered him on the way to victories on Monday and Wednesday had no bearing on his difficult decision and would not have stopped him from taking on Gasquet.
"I woke up in the middle of the night sweating," he explained. "I got some antivirals from the doctor but it didn't help so much. "I had some breakfast and then slept again for three hours and the guys woke me up, [and I was] just not feeling good. I got it first down in Australia, and I haven't been the same since." Murray, who underwent a series of blood tests before leaving Australia where he spent five days on antibiotics, experienced a return of his discomfort during his second-round match against Arnaud Clement whom he defeated in straight sets.
"In between the two sets I felt so tired, really weak," he reflected. "When the adrenaline of the match wore off, I felt very cold and shivery. My temperature was up. My body was just aching so I need to take some time off." That rest period may stretch beyond Britain's Davis Cup tie against Ukraine from March 6 to 8 but Murray will delay a decision on that commitment which precedes the two important tournaments in the United States at Indian Wells and Miami.
"I obviously want to try to play," he said about the Davis Cup match. "I'll see how I feel, give it my best shot to get ready. The doctor says I need a week to 10 days to start feeling better again so I'll just see. You never know with these things; sometimes you can recover more quickly than other times." Murray, who climbed to No 4 in the world last year after a series of outstanding performances which included a first grand slam final at Flushing Meadows, has had more than his share of fitness problems at such an early stage in his career so he intends to be careful about risking too much too soon.
"I'm a lot more experienced now, and I know what my body needs and wants. If it needs rest, then I have to rest. If it's feeling fine, then I'll play." firstname.lastname@example.org