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Martin Rogers

Monday Slice: Murray's toughest test awaits

Busted Racquet

First Serve
Andy Murray's biggest enemy just now is not Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer - it is his heritage.

The world No.3 won the first grass court title of his career at Queen's last week, which, if history is anything to go by, should speak volumes for his Wimbledon credentials. However, if Murray is to become the first British male to prevail at SW19 since Fred Perry in 1936, he will have to do much more than overcome tennis' two biggest superstars.

There may be no pressure in the game like that placed upon home favorites at Wimbledon, as Tim Henman will attest. Henman came close, losing four times in the semifinals - once, in 2001, in a contest against Goran Ivanisevic that he surely would have won if not for an untimely rain delay.

Britain craves a countryman to capture the men's title of its showpiece event. The pro-Murray fervor will increase with every game he wins over championship fortnight, and the level of expectation has been sent into overdrive by the 22-year-old's magnificent form over the past 10 months.

Murray is made of sterner stuff than "Tiger Tim," but still, he will be unable to go anywhere unnoticed for the next few weeks. His picture and name will be plastered all over the front and back pages of the newspapers and across the airwaves. If he can handle all that, and the best his opponents have to offer, it would be a truly magnificent accomplishment.

Does Murray have the game? Maybe, depending on the conditions of the manicured lawns of the All England Club this year. He has improved over the past year but will remember his straight sets quarterfinal thumping against Nadal in 2008.

The biggest test of Murray's life awaits, on and off the court.

Drop shot
Few Grand Slam champions have ducked under the radar quite as much as Thomas Johansson, the winner of the 2002 Australian Open. Johansson retired from the game this week at the age of 34, with persistent injuries having ensured he never quite reached his full potential.

Clean winner
Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia confirmed her reputation as a rising star with her first tournament victory in Birmingham. The 20-year-old beat Li Na 6-0, 7-6 in the final, dropping just 11 points in the entire first set.

Use your frequent flyer miles...
There is a line of thinking that suggests that the United Kingdom is the only place that matters for the entirety of grass court season. However, there are some excellent events in Europe, including the Ordina Open in the southern Netherlands city of s'Hertogenbosch, which boasts a decent men's and strong women's field in the week before Wimbledon.

Last week's results:

AEGON Championships, Queen's Club, London: Andy Murray
Gerry Weber Open, Halle: Tommy Haas
AEGON Classic, Birmingham: Magdalena Rybarikova

This week's predictions:

AEGON International, Eastbourne

Men - Janko Tipsarevic
Women - Nadia Petrova

Ordina Open, s'Hertogenbosch
Men - Dudi Sela
Women - Dinara Safina

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