Andy Murray to hold on to No 2 world ranking despite early exits at Indian Wells and Miami Open
Andy Murray’s position at No 2 in the world rankings is safe for the moment, but the Scot will need to rediscover his form quickly if he is to avoid being overtaken by Roger Federer in the coming weeks.
A 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 defeat by Grigor Dimitrov in the Miami Open completed a disappointing March for Murray, who had started the month so well by leading Britain to Davis Cup victory over Japan in his first appearance following the Australian Open.
The back-to-back Masters Series tournaments in March in Indian Wells and Miami have often been a happy hunting ground for Murray, but his two third-round exits in the United States amounted to his worst results in the spring double for five years. In Indian Wells Murray was beaten by Federico Delbonis, the world No 48.
Although Murray has never won the title at Indian Wells, he is a former runner-up there and has twice reached the semi-finals. His record in Miami, where he has a second home and trains regularly, is excellent. He has won the title twice and twice finished runner-up.
Having lost in the Miami final to Djokovic last year, Murray will see his points total drop by 555 to 7,815 when the world rankings are updated at the conclusion of the tournament next week. That will leave him just 120 points ahead of third-placed Roger Federer, who would probably have overtaken the Scot come next Monday if he had not been out of action for the last two months.
Federer had knee surgery after the Australian Open. He was due to make his return in Miami, but after travelling to Florida was forced to withdraw before his first match because of a stomach problem.
Murray and Federer are both scheduled to appear next in a fortnight’s time at the Monte Carlo Masters at the traditional start of the European outdoor clay-court season.
While Murray does not have any ranking points to defend on the Cote d’Azur – he missed last year’s tournament, which took place immediately after his wedding – the Scot will need to find some clay-court form as soon as possible. He enjoyed his best clay-court season ever last year, winning the titles in Munich and Madrid and reaching the semi-finals of the French Open. He will have much work to do this year just to maintain his present rankings points total.
Federer, meanwhile, has few points to defend until the Rome Masters in May. While Murray has 1,250 points to defend between next week and Rome, Federer has just 350. Although the Swiss won a minor title in Istanbul last spring, he made early exits from the Masters Series tournaments in both Monte Carlo and Madrid.
Murray twice held important leads against Dimitrov, only to allow the 24-year-old Bulgarian back into the contest on both occasions. Dimitrov, who has fallen to No 28 in the world rankings from his career-high position at No 8 two years ago, regrouped after losing the tie-break 7-1 at the end of the first set and rallied again when trailing 3-1 in the decider.
Making too many mistakes and at times looking out of sorts, Murray received a code violation from the umpire for smashing his racket during the second set. He saved only one of the seven break points he faced.
Dimitrov, in contrast, took his chances and looked the fresher of the two men at the end, winning five games in a row to complete his victory after two hours and 25 minutes. He now faces France’s Gael Monfils.
“To be honest, I just played better in the big moments today,” Dimitrov said afterwards. “I had quite a few opportunities and I used them. Even though I lost the first set, I kept good composure. I had to stay in the match and I had to be really focused. I’m happy with all those things.”
Murray admitted that he had made too many unforced errors in the final set. “After winning a close first set you want to try and put your opponent under pressure,” he said. “Credit to him. He was more solid than me.”