Thursday, May 28, 2009

Starace tips Andy for top spot

2009 French Open - Day One

Andy Murray has been talked up as a potential world number one by the player plotting his downfall in France.

Murray rose above Novak Djokovic into a career-high third place in the world rankings a fortnight ago, and he had number two Roger Federer in his sights as he launched his Roland Garros campaign on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal, the reigning Wimbledon and French Open champion, is way clear at the top of the rankings - almost 6,000 points above Murray.

But Potito Starace, the man looking to end the Briton's run in the French capital, can see Murray rising all the way to the summit.

The Italian said: "He has beaten Federer three or four times, and beaten Nadal too. So he has a big, big chance of trying to get to number two or number one.

"It won't be easy because Rafa has won four or five tournaments and he is not easy to beat on clay. But I think he (Murray) has a good chance."

Starace should not pose Murray too many problems in their round-two match, which is scheduled to be played on Wednesday.

He has not progressed past the third round at a grand-slam event - he has reached that stage twice at Roland Garros - and has dropped out of the world's top 100.

A baseliner with a decent serve and raking forehand, he reckons playing on clay could be a leveller when it comes to causing a shock against the Scot.

But he does recognise Murray's improvement on the dirt in 2009, which was clearly in evidence in his 6-2 6-2 6-1 thrashing of Juan Ignacio Chela in the first round.

"It's better for me to play him on clay - I think I have more chance here than on a hardcourt," said the 27-year-old, who has never come up against Murray.

"I didn't see him against Chela. I saw him in Miami and in Indian Wells when he played unbelievably, but that wasn't on clay.

"He is very good on clay. I've seen he has improved a lot on this surface so it will be a tough match for me.

"He is a great player and winning three sets against him will not be easy. But I will do the best I can because in the important tournaments, I always perform well."

Starace has earned more headlines off the court than on it of late - he was fined and given a six-week ban last year for his minor involvement in a betting scandal.

He advanced into the second round when Germany's Mischa Zverev pulled out of their opening match midway through proceedings with digestive problems and cramps.

Murray will have had two days of rest ahead of the match with Starace, having dismissed Chela late on Sunday.

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