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Q&A on world number one Andy Murray's dip in form

Q&A on world number one Andy Murray's dip in form
By PA Sport

17/05/2017 at 12:59

Andy Murray's surprise second-round defeat to Fabio Fognini at the Italian Open on Monday continued a miserable start to the year for the British number one.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a closer look at Murray's worrying dip in form.

What's the big deal?

At the end of 2016 Murray looked set to become the sport's dominant force after winning five tournaments in a row and taking over from Novak Djokovic as world number one. Djokovic's inconsistency has continued but Murray has sunk into a slump of his own. He lost in the Australian Open last 16 to world number 50 Mischa Zverev before following that with shock defeats to Vasek Pospisil at Indian Wells, Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Monaco and Borna Coric in Madrid. He was beaten easily by Fognini 6-2 6-4.

Why has he lost form?

Murray's poor start to the year was initially put down to exhaustion after going deep in every tournament at the end of last season. And he took very little time off over Christmas, choosing instead to undergo a hard training camp with his coach Ivan Lendl. But fatigue cannot be the only factor. Murray appears also to be struggling for confidence as well as his usual sharpness of movement, so crucial to his success. He may also have found, like Djokovic and Rafael Nadal before him, that losses breathe greater confidence into his opponents. The intimidation factor has gone.

Is he still a contender at the French Open and Wimbledon?

On clay, Murray's results had improved dramatically over the previous two seasons and he should have been one of the favourites to win his first title at this year's French Open, which begins later this month. But recent disappointments mean he will have to play his way into the tournament in Paris. If he can find rhythm in time for the second week, he definitely has a chance, but a resurgent Nadal is the front-runner in an unusually open field. Murray's prospects at Wimbledon are better given grass suits his game so well and he will hope, at least, that by July is he has rediscovered some of his groove.

Will he lose the number one spot?

Murray still sat 3,515 points ahead of Djokovic in the standings at the start of this week, but, with every early exit, his lead will dwindle. Losing in the second round in Rome will be particularly damaging, given he won the tournament last year, but, such is his hefty advantage, Murray's top spot should be safe until Wimbledon. His success in the second half of last year, however, means from then on he will have a lot of points to defend and it is then that he will be more at risk. Nadal, Djokovic and even Roger Federer could all be primed to capitalise.

Can Lendl save him?

Murray's partnership with Lendl is not full-time but the pair will reunite on Sunday and stay working together through the French Open. The Scot has emphasised his coach cannot just flick a switch but Lendl has shown an ability to lift Murray, both technically and psychologically, when his game has needed it most. Lendl's calming influence and straight-talking style could be just what the Briton needs right now but it is victories Murray craves most. A few of those and the old confidence will quickly come soaring back.

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