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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Andy: Best chance ever

AEGON Championship - Day Five Andy Murray feels he is better equipped than ever to win a Grand Slam as he prepares for Wimbledon.

This year Murray has already become the first British player to be ranked in the top three in the world and the first home player to win at Queen's Club since 1938 with his victory in the AEGON Championships.

And the 22-year-old Scot is now a genuine contender to become the first Briton to win the men's singles at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936.

But Murray is also quick to insist that the absence of defending champion Rafael Nadal from his half of the draw is not a guarantee that he will be facing five-time winner Roger Federer in the final on July 5.

"I feel like I'm better equipped to win a grand slam this year than I was last year," Murray said in his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday.

"And yeah, I think I have a chance of winning, but I understand how difficult that is to do.

"It's very easy to say, 'Oh, Rafa's not playing, Andy's got a much easier route to the final.' I don't view it like that at all.

"If I got to that stage (the semi-finals), I would have had to have won five matches before I would have had to play him, so I wasn't thinking about playing Nadal at all.

"He's one of the best players ever so it's always nice to play against him. But I definitely wasn't thinking about that.

"You just focus on each match at a time and try and win one best-of-five-set match every couple of days and not get ahead of yourself.

"I feel like I've got a chance, but I'll have to play great to do it.

"I'd obviously love to win here. I enjoy playing on grass, I love playing at Wimbledon. I feel like I'm ready to win a grand slam now, whereas last year I might not have been.

"Federer's made the last six finals of Wimbledon, he's obviously the big favourite going into the tournament. I've never won a grand slam before, I think I've got a chance of doing it here.

"But I need to play my best tennis ever to do it. It's not like it's gonna come easily. Slams don't come easily and I'm sure the guys that have won them will tell you that. I understand how big a challenge it is."

A major part of that challenge will be dealing with the hype and expectation which is bound to intensify the further Murray progresses in the tournament.

But the British number one is confident he can handle 'Murraymania' and use the support of the home crowd to his advantage.

"You can either deal with that stuff or you can't," he added.

"I don't get caught up in the whole hype thing, getting involved in reading all the papers, listening to what everyone else is saying. Because at the end of the day, it makes no difference if some guy thinks I can win the tournament or whatever.

"The guys that I work with and myself, it's important what they think about my game and how we approach all of the matches.

"I think I can deal with it. It's just making sure you don't let yourself get distracted is the most important thing. I think I've got the right people around me to stop me from doing that.

"I did watch quite a few of Tim Henman's matches the last few years of his career and the support was great. I think any time you can play in front of a home crowd in any sport is a huge advantage.

"A lot of people try and say that playing here at Wimbledon is not, but I don't understand why. In football and basketball, home court or playing a home match is a huge advantage.

"I view tennis as being the same thing. You've got 15,000 people behind you. Tim, I'm sure, played some of the best tennis of his career here. I think the crowd has something to do with that."

The defending champion traditionally gets proceedings under way on Centre Court on the first day, but with Nadal ruled out with tendinitis, championship officials have decided to play the bottom half of the men's and women's singles instead.

That means Roger Federer's match against Yen-Hsun Lu will be the first match on Centre Court, with Murray having to wait until Tuesday to take on American Robert Kendrick.

Murray has won all three of their previous meetings, including a 6-0 6-0 thrashing on grass in Rhode Island in 2006.

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