Tokyo – In-form Andy Murray will defend the Japan Open starting on Monday fresh from winning his first Grand Slam at the US Open, but he faces a tricky encounter in the form of a resurgent Gael Monfils.
The 25-year-old Murray, the top seed in Tokyo, enjoyed a double victory by beating Rafael Nadal of Spain in the final last year and then came back on court to add the doubles title with his brother Jamie.
Since then he won his first Slam at Flushing Meadows earlier this month by beating defending champion Novak Djokovic in a thrilling four-hour, 53-minute final. Prior to that the Briton took gold at the London Games.
But Monfils of France, runner-up in Tokyo in 2010, represents a difficult start. The winner faces Albert Ramos of Spain or Lukas Lacko of Slovakia in the second round.
“I have a tough first-round match against Monfils. I played him five times and lost to him a couple of times. He is a great athlete, so that's a tough match to start,” said Murray.
“Also I play the doubles with my brother. We managed to win the tournament last year. I hope we can have another good tournament.”
Murray has a 3-2 win-loss record against Monfils, who is targeting a return to the top 10 in the world as he steps up his return from a knee injury that kept him out for four months.
Murray admitted that he is “a little bit” tired after winning the US Open, as the season reaches its climax. He spent two-and-a-half weeks at home with friends and family after New York.
“I think a lot of players are at this stage a little bit tired mentally and physically as well. You need to find the best way of managing that for the last couple of months of the year,” said Murray.
“I also would like to play well in the tour finals in London. I didn't have the chance to do that last year. It was a very disappointing way to finish the year.
“I want to make sure I'm 100 percent fit for that tournament and try to finish the year well there.”
Murray is in the same quarter of the draw with Beijing Olympic doubles gold medallist Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, the seventh seed, and in the same half with third seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.
Tipsarevic, the winner at Stuttgart this season, will play Gilles Simon of France in his opener. The sixth seed Milos Raonic, winner at San Jose and Chennai, will take on Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.
The 2008 Japan Open champion Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic will spearhead the bottom half as the second seed. He will play Benoit Paire of France in the first round.
Also in the bottom half are local hope Kei Nishikori, the eighth seed, Juan Monaco of Argentina, the fourth seed, and the fifth seed Nicolas Almagro of Spain. – Sapa-AFP