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Murray steels himself for clay challenge

ESPN staff
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Andy Murray ended the spring hard court swing with victory at the Sony Open © Getty Images
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Andy Murray still regards clay as his "worst surface" but will head to the Monte-Carlo Masters in better shape than he was in 12 months ago.

Murray has only beaten one top-ten player on clay in his career - Nikolay Davydenko at the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2011 - but reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros that same year and bowed out in the quarter-finals in 2012.

And while the world No. 2 skipped Great Britain's Davis Cup victory over Russia to focus on his preparations for the switch to the slower surface, he knows he faces a tough task to count himself among the clay court elite when the season begins at Monte Carlo on April 13.

"I haven't played on it for over ten months," Murray told The Express. "Clay is my worst surface and it always takes time for me to get used to. I can play good tennis on it but I have to work extremely hard to get ready.

"It is the most challenging surface and, with Rafa Nadal coming back, it will be tough."

Murray spent the 2012 clay court season nursing a niggling back injury that led to a series of indifferent tournament results, with quarter-final exits in Monte Carlo and Barcelona as good as it got in the build-up to the French Open.

But a lighter work-load in 2013 and a four-day break after his Sony Open victory against David Ferrer will see the Scot arrive at the Monte Carlo Country Club in better physical condition than many of his counterparts.

"I didn't want to overplay too much at the beginning of the year," said Murray, who has only lost twice in 19 matches this year, to Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro. "A lot of the guys have been complaining already that they are tired."

Men's rankings: 1. Novak Djokovic (SRB), 2. Andy Murray (GBR), 3. Roger Federer (SUI), 4. David Ferrer (ESP), 5. Rafael Nadal (ESP), 6. Tomas Berdych (CZE), 7. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG), 8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA), 9. Richard Gasquet (FRA), 10. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB).

Women's rankings: 1. Serena Williams (USA), 2. Maria Sharapova (RUS), 3. Victoria Azarenka (BLR), 4. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL), 5. Li Na (CHN), 6. Angelique Kerber (GER), 7. Sara Errani (ITA), 8. Petra Kvitova (CZE), 9. Samantha Stosur (AUS), 10. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN).

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