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Page last updated at 20:13 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Doubles defeat no downer for Murray

By Kheredine Idessane in Rotterdam

Andy Murray and James Auckland
Andy Murray and James Auckland were knocked out in the first round

So he's out in the first round. No big deal.

The doubles wasn't what Andy Murray came to Rotterdam for, and I'm sure he and partner James Auckland weren't expecting to knock out the fourth seeds Knowle and Ram anyway.

Especially as the British duo have not competed together in three years.

No, this was all about the world number four getting a feel of the indoor courts here at the Ahoy Arena, and about brushing away a few cobwebs after that Australian Open defeat to Fernando Verdasco.

Which, incidentally, was nowhere near the disaster some made it out to be.

Anyone who can take Rafa Nadal to five sets - and five hours - is no mean player.

Verdasco's win over a virus-carrying Murray was a disappointment to the Scot but certainly no disgrace.

Verdasco's recent rise up the world rankings (he's now broken into the world top 10) shows the Spaniard's simply at the top of his game.

And that's exactly what Murray will need to be if he wants to win this World Tennis Tournament.

Rotterdam has attracted eight of the world's top 16 players , including the world number one and newly crowned Aussie Open champion, Rafa Nadal (who, like Murray, also went out in the first round of the doubles).

The magnificent Mallorcan is, of course, top seed here with the pride of Scotland just behind him at number two.

If no-one pulls rank along the way, the organisers are whetting their lips for a Nadal-Murray final on Sunday.

I spoke to the tournament director Richard Krajicek, who you may remember won Wimbledon back in 1996.

He's tipping Murray to follow in his footsteps one day and he also thinks the Scot can make it to world number two this year (so messrs Federer and Djokovic better look out).

Krajicek believes Murray has the game to become a multiple Slam winner and world number one. So it's good to see his Dutch fan club is in such good voice.

This was all about the world number four getting a feel of the indoor courts here at the Ahoy Arena, and about brushing away a few cobwebs after that Australian Open defeat to Fernando Verdasco

Speaking of which, Murray was mobbed by autograph hunters at a signing session in the tennis plaza, a sort of 'fan zone' where you can meet the stars, get the latest merchandise and even swing a racquet yourself if the mood takes you.

Young and old waited patiently for the Murray signature - and he was only too happy to oblige.

Let's hope his mood is as good when the real thing gets underway.

He has a tough opening match against the former world number three Ivan Ljubicic.

The Croat has beaten Murray twice in their three head-to-heads, though they haven't played each other since early 2007.

Andy Murray
Murray will be keen to put the Australian open behind him

Ljubicic is still a top 50 player these days so will be no pushover.

And given that Murray went out in the first round here last year, there will be no counting of chickens by team Murray who once again treated fans watching their practice session to a memorable game of 'tennis-ball'.

Think football keepy-uppy but over a tennis net, and include physio Jez Green and coach Miles Maclagan.

The highlight of which was undoubtedly doubles partner Auckland straddling the net somewhat uncomfortably as he chased down a Murray header.

Dare I say "new balls please"? Ouch.

But back to the tennis.

The other seeds in Murray's half of the draw are Gilles Simon (world number eight) David Ferrer (world ranked 14) and last year's beaten finalist Robin Soderling (16th in the world) so we can expect some pretty good viewing this week.

Let's hope much of it is produced by the racket of Murray.

So that his first round doubles defeat quickly fades away.

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