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Murray's determined to have a 'grand' slam

When it comes to grand slam events, and especially when it comes to winning them, experience is invaluable.

The chances of someone relatively unknown barging their way through the men's draw over the next fortnight at the French Open is pretty close to zero.

That is good news for Andy Murray as he tries to put a gloss on a stuttering clay-court season, punctuated by a niggling back injury, by performing well at the second grand slam event of the year.

Twelve months ago, Murray arrived in Paris on the back of his best clay-court season to date but had to endure a broken tooth and a sprained ankle before battling through to the semi-finals. "Last year was a tough event for me, one of the toughest slams that I'd played or done well in," he said yesterday. "There were a lot of positives to take from it. I think it helped my confidence in my clay court game all around, really. Not just for this event but coming into the season and in general.

"I feel I can have a good run here – I'll need to play good tennis, obviously – but last year definitely helped because I also wasn't 100% healthy during the event then." Providing I don't have any injuries like that and I play some good tennis, there's no reason why I can't have another great tournament."

Murray's first assignment will be against the relatively unknown Japanese player, Tatsumi Ito, ranked 69 but with very little clay-court experience under his belt. Yet the Scot's potential path to the last four is littered with obstacles, from Richard Gasquet, who beat him in Rome last week, or Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine in round four, to Spain's David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.

Beyond that, a semi-final, presumably against six-times champion Rafael Nadal, would await, but Murray has played enough grand slams to know that a mishap could lie around any corner and, while Ito has earned his ranking through his performances on hard courts, the Scot will not underestimate him. "I played him in doubles last year in Tokyo so I have seen his game before and hit balls against him. He's quite a flat hitter of the ball, a pretty good ball striker."

Given his draw, Murray would probably consider a run to the quarter-finals here a good start to a frantic few months, with Wimbledon closely followed by the Olympics and then the US Open.

He will want more, of course, but he will appreciate as well as anyone that the big story going into the event is Novak Djokovic's quest for a fourth straight grand slam title and Nadal's attempt to make it seven victories in the past eight years.

Should Djokovic add the French Open to his Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open titles, he would be the first man since Australia's Rod Laver to hold all four titles, something Murray said yesterday would be "an unbelievable effort".

It was telling that Roger Federer, the 2009 champion and a man who has been in superb form since the US Open last autumn, should put both Djokovic and Nadal above him in the pecking order on this surface. "For me it would be Rafa, Novak, and me third position," he said. The Swiss will be hopeful that he can at least repeat his run to the final of last year.

As for Djokovic, for the next fortnight he will have to respond to repeated questions about completing the Nole Slam but so far, so good. "This is the chance that very few tennis players have in their lives," he said. "I'm aware of that but I accept it as a challenge. It makes me even more motivated and makes me feel good about it, rather than feeling pressured and worried that something bad is going to happen. I'm looking forward to it."

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