Murray hardly noticed on long drive to Cincy

August 19, 2009 07:49 AM

By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer

MASON, Ohio (AP) -- Andy Murray needed a road trip.

The day after he won the Rogers Cup in Montreal, the world’s new No. 2 player decided to hit the road instead of the airport for the trip to Cincinnati and the next Masters event.

It’s 798 miles from center court in Montreal to center court in suburban Cincinnati. Flying time? A little over two hours. Driving time? A little over 13 hours.

Easy choice.

“I don’t know many people that fly as much as tennis players,” Murray said Tuesday, before practicing for the $3 million Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. “I mean, by the end of the year, you get pretty sick of it.

“So when you get the chance to drive, I think it’s quite a nice thing to do.”

With fitness trainer Jez Green at the wheel, they hit the highway, crossed into the United States at Buffalo, then wheeled down a series of interstate roads—I-90 west along the lake, I-271 around Cleveland, I-71 meandering the length of Ohio.

They made a half-dozen stops to refuel or get a sandwich. The only thing Murray didn’t get: Noticed. Not much, anyway.

“I actually got recognized by the border control when we were coming over into the States, which was nice,” Murray said Tuesday. “We got through there pretty quickly.”

He won’t be able to keep such a low profile in Cincinnati, where his new ranking—he moved up to No. 2 this week for the first time—will get a lot of attention once the tournament gets moving at full speed.

None of the top eight seeds played Monday or Tuesday. The top-ranked player on the courts has been No. 9 Gilles Simon of France, who won his second-round match 7-6 (5), 6-7 (6), 6-1 over Russia’s Igor Andreev on Tuesday.

Lleyton Hewitt rallied for a 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4 win over No. 12 Robin Soderling of Sweden. Hewitt’s health is his main concern—he had hip surgery last August and lost in the first round at Montreal last week because of a leg injury.

“My body felt a lot better,” he said. “That was the difference. It gave me a lot of confidence to be able to actually go out there and compete. Last week in Montreal, I couldn’t compete, which is frustrating.”

No. 11 Fernando Verdasco of Spain also lost, and No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile quit in the first set of his match because of a sore knee.

Murray was one of the last to get to town, arriving right at sunset on Monday night. He had a good feeling as he and Green pulled off Interstate 71— the tournament in southwest Ohio has become one of his favorites.

He beat Novak Djokovic in two tiebreakers and near 100-degree heat last year to win his first Masters championship in Cincinnati, one that took his career to a new level. The 22-year-old player from Scotland went on to reach the title match at the US Open, losing in three sets to Roger Federer. He finished the year ranked No. 4.

With Rafael Nadal sidelined for two months this summer by knee problems, Murray was able to close in. His title in Montreal allowed him to take over the Spaniard’s spot, right behind Federer.

Since his win at Cincinnati last year, that gap between him and No. 1 has closed substantially.

“It’s not that far,” he said. “It’s a matter of a couple of the matches. You know, if I had a slightly better run at the Australian Open instead of losing a tight one (in the fourth round) or instead of losing a tight one to (Andy) Roddick in the semis at Wimbledon, who knows?

“I would be very close to Roger in the rankings if I had won those two matches from the semis onwards.”

The biggest gap between them is in Grand Slams, of course. Murray has yet to win one—his closest call was that title-match loss at the US Open last year. Federer’s win at Wimbledon this year gave him a record 15 Grand Slam titles.

“I think I’ve only played 15 slams,” Murray said, “and Roger is probably the greatest player of all time. I think at 22, I’m still pretty young. You know, I’d love to win a slam. That’s obviously one of my biggest goals.”

Something to think about on his next road trip.