Andy Murray is determined to emerge from the darkest cloud of his tennis career with a grand slam title on the horizon. He just does not want anyone to panic if it is not this summer at Wimbledon. Murray has won five matches and lost five since losing the Australian Open to Roger Federer in January. The defeats include three back-to-back matches, first to Robin Soderling and, more worryingly, Mardy Fish and Philipp Kohlschreiber.
It has seen his world ranking slip to No 5 and prompted conjecture about what might have gone wrong. Murray, however, is confident it is only a matter of time before he delivers. He said: "I've always said I'll win one [a grand slam]. That's why I train hard and make sacrifices. It doesn't have to be this year. "It doesn't have to be a rush and a panic. If you're mentally going in thinking 'I'm not going to get another chance at this' I don't really think that is beneficial to your mindset or how you play.
"I'm just trying to work as hard as I can and take my time. I don't want to be panicking. I'm 22 years old. Most of my friends haven't finished university yet so I've got a long road ahead of me and I have time on my side. "I've been through some much tougher moments than now, playing through injuries. I had two very poor tournaments in Miami and Monte Carlo, but I feel good now." Murray cites injury niggles after the Australian Open as the source of his problems. He also admits the emotional drain of losing another grand slam final to Federer - following defeat at the 2008 US Open - as a contributory factor.
"Yeah, it could have been a drain, but after a bad loss in Miami I was just disappointed," he said. "Everybody was asking a lot of questions. 'What's wrong? What's going on off the court? Is there something wrong with your coaches?' Hang on a second, I've just had the best start to the year I've ever had in Australia. Everybody's entitled to have a few bad days at the office. "Nothing major was wrong. You start to overanalyse things. I'm not going to play well every week but I want to perform as best as I can each week and I want to win a grand slam. I just need to get the consistency back."
Meanwhile, the timing of Australia's Davis Cup tie with Japan so close to this month's French Open was described as "ridiculous" by Lleyton Hewitt, the former world No 1, yesterday. The Asia-Oceania second-round tie, which begins in Brisbane on Friday, is sandwiched between Roland Garros warm-up events, the ATP Masters in Rome and Madrid. Hewitt said: "It's ridiculous to be playing this week firstly. The [International Tennis Federation] really have got to have a good look at it.
"Because if you are expecting to play two Masters series for the ATP, and then come back and play a Davis Cup tie in between that - it takes a lot of effort." With the cup tie winner advancing to the September World Group play-offs, Hewitt could face a major workout if John Fitzgerald, the Australian captain, decides to play him in the doubles as well. The French Open starts in Paris on May 23. * PA