Andy Murray has defended himself and has taken a wildcard spot away from a Spanish player after about a turn-around to his plan to skip the clay-court season.
Murray had just heard of his intention to skip the European clay-court campaign with the French Open and use the grass season for the next two months, but the 34-year-old was surprisingly entered the next week’s Madrid Masters handed over by a wildcard to the tournament authorities.
Of the nine players given, the main draw is wildcards, only one is Spanish, 20-year-old Carlos Gimeno, who is ranked 363 in the world. In a statement on Twitter, former world No 7 Fernando Verdasco hit out at the decision.
“Faced with the announcement today, the invitations about the Mutua Madrid Open are going to be an offer for this year’s tournament. Many Spanish players can’t help but give our opinion,” he wrote. “We find it surprising, as well as very frustrating, that the Spanish event of such great (or no) support of Spanish tennis players has been granted invitations, especially to the main draw.”
Verdasco went on to compare Madrid’s wildcard choices with those made by officials at the Rome Masters, who have given five wildcards to Italian players.
Two hours after Verdasco’s comments, Murray cryptically tweeted: “Amazing how quickly people forget about tennis” and responded to a young Spanish talent from a spot away.
“More than happy to play,” he replied. “Will the most likely play qualifiers in Rome? If a tournament invites me to come and play in the main draw are you suggesting I should turn it down and play qualities?”
After an experiment on the green clay of Florida with his old mentor Ivan Lendl, Murray is also a tilt at the Rome Masters in early May but he is not planning on entering a late bid as the best-of-five-set French Open, That would be his creaking body for another level of challenge.
In the most likely scenario, Murray would begin his grass-court preparations in late May with the Surbiton Challenger – which runs from May 30 to June 5 – as his first event on home soil.
Murray has shown improved form this year, after spending two-and-a-half years with his metal hip, but he can’t seem to catch a break with his tournament draws. In six successive events, he has won his opening match in the second round.
Lendl will not be joining Murray in Europe. He is notoriously unenthusiastic about any kind of travel, and in airports in particular. Were Murray to drag him over to the grass, that would be a significant achievement.
The original plan, as laid out in Miami in March, was for Murray and Lendl – who has since returned to camp for the first time since 2017 – to an extended training block in Florida.
But after taking his family to Disneyworld last week, Murray seems to be feeling more positive about the clay – a surface that he has traditionally disliked, perhaps a run to the French Open final of his most successful season of 2016.