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Leather shorts and cars do not a French Open Champion make

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May 4, 2015


Wait a minute. Did we really just see that happen? Did the gods of the clay courts decide to throw a bone to Britain's Andy Murray?  It would appear so... as the world number three managed to land his 32nd ATP World Tour title. The noteworthy part is that it was the Scot's first ever one on clay.  It was a pretty long time coming as well, because the final against Philipp Kohlschreiber was delayed by rain on Sunday and so needed a Monday finish -- and on top of that it was a grueling 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 7-6 (7-4) three set victory for Murray.

The last Briton to win on clay at an ATP event was the little known Buster Mottram back in April of 1976 (one of only two career titles that the former world number 15 won).  At least Murray continues to rack up some history for British tennis, and he can drive away in his brand new BMW from the Munich Open sponsors, as well as looking dashin in his pair of lederhosen which were somewhat awkwardly presented to him during the winner's ceremony.

Hey, maybe it was the lure of those leather shorts that inspired Murray to his first clay title?  Who knows.

Then again, if you've seen the pictures of him in them, maybe not.  As Murray heads off to the WTA Mutua Madrid Open where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are in the field, does Murray's win in Munich mean that he has thrown his hat in the ring of contenders? Does he have a genuine shot to go on and win the French Open later this month?  It's not as if Rafael Nadal is playing his best tennis, and Roger Federer's clay confidence may be a bit over inflated after winning in Istanbul recently without having to face a top twenty player.  Maybe, just maybe Murray is timing things right.

But then you look at his career stats on clay and it's something too frustrating to get your lederhosen in a bunch over. Murray (pre-Madrid) has put up a 67-37 match record on the dirt in his career. That's a horrid FedEx Index rate of 0.644, which is a bit of embarrassment alongside his fantastic 0.830 rate on Grass and his career 0.779 on the hard courts (where 25 of his 32 titles have been won). It doesn't exactly scream of a future champion at Roland Garros, but let's look at his career performances on the famous French clay anyway.

Nope, can't find a previous final appearance in his career record there. Murray's best efforts at Roland Garros are semi final exits in 2011 and 2013, falling both times at the hands of the clay master himself, Rafael Nadal. Sandwiched in there was a quarter final exit against clay specialist David Ferrer, which suggest that when it comes to playing the high-level opponents who are more at home on clay than anywhere else, Murray just isn't up to the task. That's no surprise to any avid tennis fan.

Of his last five round of sixteen-or-better victories at Roland Garros, only one of them have been in straight sets (against Juan Ignacio Chela in the 2011 quarter finals). Simply put, Murray isn't a clay man, so don't go getting all carried away if you see him cruising around his hometown of Dunblane in his shiny new Beamer wearing leather shorts. They may well be indications of a personal career breakthrough for him, but it doesn't point to him being a French Open Grand Slam winner.

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