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Murray will make it, says Ancic

French Open: Sunday 25 May to Sunday 8 June Coverage: BBC TV, BBCi, Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website.

Andy Murray is preparing for the French Open, starting at Roland Garros on Sunday

By David Ornstein


"Good things come to somebody who knows how to wait a little bit," says Mario Ancic, who appreciates the value of patience more than most.

This is the guy whose victory over Roger Federer in 2002, aged 18, saw him become the first teenager since Bjorn Borg in 1973 to mark his Wimbledon debut with a win on Centre Court.

Then, two years later, Ancic destroyed Tim Henman en route to the Wimbledon semi-finals, a result which lead the great Boris Becker to effuse: "The future of tennis has arrived - and his name is Mario Ancic."

But just when the Croat had established himself inside the world's top 10, a serious illness and two injuries forced him to miss the 2006 US Open, the 2007 French, Wimbledon and US Open, and the 2008 Australian Open.

Ancic plummeted to 136 in the rankings but a return to fitness has seen the 24-year-old climb 90 places to 46 in less than four months, and many believe he goes into the year's remaining three Slams as a serious title contender.

Mario Ancic
If I look at Andy and his game he has it in him to win a Slam - I believe that 100%

Mario Ancic
It is a comparable, if more extreme, journey to that travelled by British number one Andy Murray.

Murray goes into the 2008 French Open, which starts on Sunday, ranked 11 in the world, yet doubts persist over whether the 21-year-old will ever convert his unquestionable potential into Grand Slam glory.

However, having already faced Murray on three occasions this season, Ancic has seen enough to make him believe that the doubters will be proved wrong.

"Andy is experiencing a similar thing as what happened to me - I was 22 and in the top 10 but I was not considered to be young," he told BBC Sport.

"This is what people are saying about Andy because he has been on the Tour for a couple of years already.

"But people don't realise how young he is and that he has at least 10 more years in top level tennis and that his best years are yet to come."

Although Rafael Nadal claimed his first French Open just days after his 19th birthday and Novak Djokovic triumphed in Australia at the age of 20, Federer was almost 22 when he won Wimbledon and Pat Rafter 24 when he lifted the US Open.

"Of course Djokovic and Nadal had great success but there are other players, such as Rafter, who had great results a little bit later," said Ancic, who earned the moniker "Baby Goran" following his famous victory over Federer.

"It's not written in a book how you have to be. Andy is doing unbelievably well for a young guy.

"He was top 10 and is top 20 so for sure he has room to improve but his career is going really well and he has what it takes to win a Slam.

"It's tough to say whether it's going to be this year, next year or in two or three years but he is somebody who has the potential, someone you can regard as dangerous in every Slam he plays."

Murray will take heart from the way Ancic has battled back from knee and shoulder injuries, and an energy-sapping bout of glandular fever.

606: DEBATE
David O, BBC Sport

The Scot, whose fitness problems in his younger years drew accusations that he might never be able to cope with the rigours of a two-week Grand Slam, missed the 2007 French Open and Wimbledon after badly damaging his right wrist at the Hamburg Masters.

Upon returning, he narrowly missed out on the end-of-season Masters Cup and has gone on to win titles in Doha and Marseilles this season.

Tough draws - Murray lost to the eventual runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open, Nikolay Davydenko in Dubai, Djokovic in Monte Carlo and eventual runner-up Stanislas Wawrinka in Rome - have affected his bid to return to the top 10.

"He has all the strokes in the world and eventually he will find his game," says Ancic, who lost to Murray in the Marseilles final but then overcame him in Miami and Barcelona.

"He's already one of the best players in the world and he has showed that by beating many good guys.

"There is no need to be negative because his time will come and I am sure he has an unbelievable future ahead of him."

Many question whether that future will include success at Roland Garros.

Despite learning his trade at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, clay is considered Murray's weakest surface and, with just five wins on the crushed shale this term, few are offering him a prayer this coming fortnight.

But Ancic insists Murray possesses the qualities required to succeed on all courts.

Andy Murray
Murray faces French wildcard Jonathan Eysseric in the first round

"If I had to pick one for Andy it would be the US Open," he says. "But the surfaces have slowed down on all courts so there's not a big difference between the Slams any more and I think he has a shot on all four.

"The US Open used to be quick, now it's much slower; Wimbledon used to be much, much quicker, now it's slower.

"At Wimbledon you see the majority of players playing from the back of the court when, 10-15 years ago, 90% of players were serve-volley.

"So I think players who are great from the back of the court - and Andy has some of the best groundstrokes in the world - have a shot on every surface."

The proximity of players on the ATP Tour ensures public criticism of peers is almost non-existent, but Ancic speaks of Murray's prospects with sincerity and genuine confidence.

He dismisses suggestions that his suspect temperament will prove detrimental - "Andy's temper is part of him and something that helps motivate him to be the best" - and is adamant that Grand Slam silverware is not far off.

"As we all know there are some great names who never won a Grand Slam title," he points out.

"It needs a bit of luck, a good draw and inspiration in certain moments.

"But if I look at Andy and his game, he has it in him to win a Slam. I believe that 100%."


see also
Ancic sends Murray crashing out
29 Apr 08 |  Tennis
Murray 'can be clay-court star'
21 Apr 08 |  Tennis
Murray hands Ancic win in Miami
30 Mar 08 |  Tennis
Battling Murray wins Qatar Open
05 Jan 08 |  Tennis
Murray wins US junior crown
12 Sep 04 |  US Open 2004
Becker: Ancic raises the bar
30 Jun 04 |  Tennis
Ancic stuns Federer
25 Jun 02 |  Wimbledon


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