Andy Murray books France final as he looks to win first title since 2019
Andy Murray guaranteed a return to the top 50 of the ATP Rankings with victory over Harold Mayot to reach the final of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Aix-en-Provence, France.
The Scot, currently ranked 52, took a late wildcard into the second-tier tournament after losing in the first round of the Madrid Open last week and has made the most of the opportunity with four victories in a row.
They have all come against French players – including former world No 6 Gael Monfils in the first round and rising star Luca van Assche – who gave world No 1 Novak Djokovic a scare at the Srpska Open, and Murray comfortably brushed aside 21-year-old Mayot, ranked 241, 7-5 6-1 to set up a finale against American Tommy Paul.
One consequence of the decision to extend the clay-court Masters events in Madrid and Rome to two weeks each has been the strong Challenger fields this week, with Paul a top-20 player and Australian Open semi-finalist in January.
Murray has certainly gained in confidence through the week and pulled well clear with a run of seven games in a row, Mayot bowing to the pressure being exerted on him by double-faulting to give away the opening set.
Finishing off matches has at times been a struggle for Murray in recent years and he wobbled slightly, missing two match points at 5-0 before finally taking his fifth opportunity to clinch it.
The smile says it all
Welcome to the Aix final, Andy Murray!#ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/yEwQv78cF7
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) May 6, 2023
It is Murray’s second final of the season after the ATP Tour event in Doha in February, where he lost to Daniil Medvedev.
The Scot is bidding for his first title since Antwerp in 2019, while, should he beat Paul, he would claim his first trophy at Challenger level for 18 years.
He would also climb to just outside the top 40, which would be a major boost to his hopes of being seeded for Wimbledon, especially after his recent nightmare run.
Following a decent February that saw him reach the Qatar final and the third round in Indian Wells, Murray fell away as he lost his opening matches at the Miami Open, Monte Carlo Masters and Madrid Open.
Should he win the trophy on Sunday, it will be interesting to see if Murray heads to Bordeaux as he also signed up for the ATP Challenger BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux, which starts on May 15.
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