x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

New challenge looming for Andy Murray at the US Open

Flushing Meadows at the end of August will be the scene of the world No 2's first grand slam as a defending champion.

Andy Murray celebrates after defeating Novak Djokovic in last year's US Open final. Chris Trotman / Getty Images
Andy Murray celebrates after defeating Novak Djokovic in last year's US Open final. Chris Trotman / Getty Images

It will be almost a month since his memorable Wimbledon title success when Andy Murray returns to action this week at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

When the world No 2 steps on court to face either Grigor Dimitrov or Marcel Granollers, he will be starting a passage of the season that will culminate in a new experience – going into a grand slam as the defending champion.

The first of Murray's two major titles came last September, when he won a five-set thriller with Novak Djokovic in New York, ending Britain's wait for a male grand slam winner, which had stretched back to 1937.

The US Open, which begins on August 26, is the final major of the 2013 and it will be a new sensation for Murray, primarily centred on the test of defending the title.

Repeating success at Flushing Meadows is no easy feat. Apart from Roger Federer, who won five in succession between 2004 and 2008, only Pat Rafter (1997/98) and Pete Sampras (1995/96) have won the event consecutively in the past 25 years.

Until that success over Djokovic, the sole quest for Murray had been simply to win a grand slam title. It did not matter which he just wanted one.

Murray now has two – and he will strongly fancy his chances of making it three in New York, since he and Djokovic are the two dominant players on hard courts at present.

But he will have the confidence of knowing not only that he bested Djokovic in last year's final, but also last month at Wimbledon, when he became the first player in three years to beat the world No 1 in straight sets at a grand slam.

There will be more media attention and focus on Murray than he will be used to in New York, but that is unlikely to bother a man who has had to deal with huge home pressure at Wimbledon every year.

Good players do not just win one or two grand slams, they win a lot of them. Federer has 17, Nadal has 11 and Djokovic has six to his name, and that is the next challenge in Murray's career to move into their bracket.

He knows how to win in New York and at Wimbledon and he has lost three times in the Australian Open final, so there likely are plenty of winning opportunities for him ahead, beginning this month.

Before then, the aim will be to play himself into form on the hard courts of Montreal and Cincinnati the following week.

It is a strong field in Montreal, with only the injured Federer missing from the draw, and will be an early test of Murray's credentials, although with Djokovic and Nadal in the other half of the draw, he will be disappointed if he does not at least make Sunday's final.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE