Andy Murray will continue his preparations for the 2017 French Open by returning to the clay for next week's Barcelona Open. Fresh from his shock last-16 defeat to Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the Monte-Carlo Masters, the world number one will join the likes of reigning champion Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem and David Goffin in Catalonia after accepting a wildcard entry.
The addition of Murray to an impressive cast of singles players already featuring six currently listed inside the ATP's top 20 has been hailed as quite the coup by tournament organisers, who have also secured the presence of top-ranked doubles player Henri Kontinen of Finland.
"Having the number one in the world is a luxury for us and we now have both the number one in singles and doubles," beamed director Albert Costa. "This is the cherry that the fans will know how to value."
Following his 6-2, 2-6, 5-7 defeat to Ramos-Vinolas that saw the three-time Grand Slam winner fritter away a 4-0 lead in the third set, Murray was initially said to be undecided as to whether to play Barcelona, the more low-key ATP World Tour 250 event in Budapest or else opt just to train. Father-in-law Nigel Sears is also set to run the London Marathon on Sunday (23 April).
The 29-year-old, who was sent packing from Indian Wells last month by Vasek Pospisil in his first defeat to a player ranked outside the top 100 since 2011, initially appeared concerned that playing in either tournament would not leave him much time to train before the latest edition of the season's second major begins at Roland Garros on 28 May.
However, a rusty showing in Monaco has clearly persuaded Murray, who withdrew from the Miami Open in March and also missed Great Britain's Davis Cup quarter-final drubbing by France, that he needs to get more clay tournaments under his belt amid concerns over conditioning and a disappointing serve affected by the elbow issue that is yet to return to normal and contributed heavily to his early exit.
"I need to decide whether I try to get matches or whether I try to get myself in better shape physically, put as much work in as I can," he said after that exit in Monte Carlo. "If I was to play Budapest or Barcelona, and do well, I would not really have a chance to train much between now and the French Open. Whereas if I wasn't to play next week, I get the chance to put in some hard work – which is maybe what's needed."
Murray has made four previous appearances at the Barcelona Open. His best showing came in 2012, when he reached the quarter-finals before losing to Milos Raonic.