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By Chris Oddo | Tuesday May 3, 2017

It’s been a slow start to 2017 for Andy Murray, and that shouldn't be much of a surprise. The Scotsman's 2017 campaign is giving Murray maniacs a first-hand glimpse of just how tough it is to back up one dominant season with another. Especially when you are about to turn 30, toting a very stiff elbow and coming off the busiest year of your career, both professionally (career-high matches) and personally (baby born last February).

Murray's recent results aren't what we'd expect from a World No.1. He went 44-3 against players ranked outside of the Top 20 last season; this year his record against such players is 12-3. It's concerning but not at all surprising. Excellence is what Murray achieved last season on an extremly regular basis. It was brilliant. It was beautiful. And, naturally, it took a toll on him. It's logical that Murray has undergone a dip in form, given what he's had to endure physically (Murray played 87 matches last season and participated in 13 finals).

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Regardless of his record this season (15-5), or what the stats say, Murray remains sanguine about his summer hopes. He’s slowly progressing with his recovery from said elbow injury, and his reluctance to push his serve because of the elbow likely has a lot to do with Murray's aforementioned less than stellar results.

Murray’s less than dazzling form in 2017 is likely more about fitness than it is about the Scot feeling the weight of the World No.1 ranking, or the fact that he’s now a the biggest scalp on the ATP Tour.

"I have lost early in Monte Carlo before, I've lost early in Indian Wells before, I've started clay-court seasons badly, I've had difficult runs and I also wasn't number one, so I really don't think it's to do with that,” Murray said, according to the Independent. "It's been a tricky year so far, and I'm hoping now that I'm through the worst of it and I can finish strong."

Murray also says that last week’s semifinal at the Barcelona Open (he lost to Dominic Thiem in a three-set semifinal), was a step in the right direction for him.

"Barcelona was a really important week for me," Murray told the Independent. "I played three matches in three days. That would have been the most that I would have tested my elbow and I was able to come back the next day and play a decent match against Thiem. I've done quite a bit of physical work the last couple of weeks as well. I feel like physically I am getting back to where I need to be."

He added: "In the match against Thiem I got broken maybe six times. If I am serving better, it gives me a much better chance. I haven't been losing matches due to my return game. I've been breaking serve a decent amount..."

It will be interesting to see what Murray can do in the next two months. He has a final in Madrid, a title in Rome, a final at Roland Garros plus titles at Queen’s and Wimbledon to defend. But his lead over current World No.2 Novak Djokovic is nearly 3,800 points. The Serb can certainly make up some ground on Murray, but at this point of the season, both have lots of work to do.

Murray is 11th in the ATP Race to London while Djokovic is 20th (the Serb is another story for another time). Yes, it's been a strange season for men's tennis, and the Top 2 have not fared well. But that can change quickly for both, if they hit the ground running next week at Madrid.

 

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