Sat, Nov 04, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Murray's breakthrough season ends in whimper

ANTI-CLIMAX The boy from Dunblane had notched up some impressive achievements this year, moving up from No. 64 to 19, before being scuppered in Paris

AFP , PARIS AND QUEBEC CITY, CANADA

Briton Andy Murray reacts to losing a point against Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty during their Paris Masters Series third-round match on Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

Andy Murray started the year as heir apparent to Tim Henman and enjoyed his crowning glory with a first title in San Jose followed by becoming only the second man this year to beat Roger Federer.

But his breakthrough season ended in a whimper on Thursday with a Paris Masters third round defeat at the hands of Dominik Hrbaty which left the 19-year-old Scotsman admitting he couldn't wait to take a vacation.

"It's been a really tough year mentally for me," Murray said after his tame 7-6 (8/6), 6-0 defeat to the experienced Slovakian.

"It's been a successful year and I think I've earned a break. I've played a lot of tennis and I've done a lot of travelling. I've flown around the world to fit the Davis Cup into my schedule and that makes it a little bit tougher too," he added.

Murray, now ranked 19, started the year at 64 in the world and hasn't looked back.

He clinched his first ATP tour title in San Jose beating former world number ones Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-final and final respectively.

He also found himself on the gossip pages of his home country tabloids when he celebrated his California win with a very public clinch with girlfriend Kim Sears.

Along the way there have been fall-outs with the demanding British press whom he accused of putting him under unrealistic pressure as the tireless hunt for a potential Grand Slam winner honed in on another suspect.

But a sign that the boy from Dunblane had arrived came in August when he achieved tennis's version of mission impossible -- beating world No. 1 Federer.

It came in the second round of the Masters in Cincinnati with a straight sets triumph which had followed a first round dismissal of Henman.

"There always comes a time when it's kind of meant to be," said Murray who along with Rafael Nadal is the only man to have got the better of the Swiss world number this year. "I just felt it was my time to win against him."

Since then, Murray has also found time to prevent Britain from sinking into the twilight world of the Davis Cup Euro/Africa Group Two by winning twice in Ukraine.

"I've played a lot since the start of the year. I tried to pace myself a bit better towards the end. I feel like it's time for a break, recharge the batteries and get ready for the next year," he said.

His planning for next year will be taken after consultation with coach Brad Gilbert, the man behind part of the success stories of Roddick and Andre Agassi.

"I'll see what Brad wants to do ... but I wouldn't mind taking a holiday somewhere, get in the sun, have some time to myself," Murray said.

Argentina's David Nalbandian and Tommy Robredo of Spain became the latest players to book their places in the Shanghai Masters Cup on Thursday as the US' James Blake was left sweating on his chances.

Nalbandian, the defending Masters Cup champion, made sure of his inclusion in the eight-man field without hitting a ball when Germany's Tommy Haas beat Blake 6-4, 6-2 here in the Paris Masters third round.

Robredo also reserved his seat on the plane to China with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) win over France's Paul-Henri Mathieu.

Nalbandian, absent from the Paris tournament because of a stomach injury, and Robredo, join Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Ivan Ljubicic, Andy Roddick and Nikolay Davydenko as the confirmed starters in China on Nov. 12.

"It's a dream for me to be in the Masters Cup," said the 24-year-old Robredo, the world No. 7.

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