Murray looks to rebound on Barcelona's clay, Nishikori out
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Needing to make up for lost time before the French Open, Andy Murray decided at the last minute to squeeze in another clay-court tournament in Barcelona.
The top-ranked Murray was going to pass on the Barcelona Open until he bowed out at Monte Carlo in the third round on Thursday, when he blew a 4-0 lead in the deciding set to Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Murray and Ramos-Vinolas could meet again this week in Spain in a potential semifinal.
Murray is trying to regain his form following a right elbow injury that kept him out of the Miami Open and the Davis Cup quarterfinals.
But even before hurting his arm, Murray hasn't quite carried his excellent form from 2016 into this year. He lost to the 50th-ranked Mischa Zverez at the Australian Open, won at Dubai, then flopped to 129th-ranked Vasek Pospisil at Indian Wells before his five-week layoff.
Last year, Murray posted a career-best record on clay of 15 wins and three losses, which came in the Monte Carlo semifinals, and the finals of Madrid and the French Open.
Murray played at Barcelona four times from 2005-2012, never getting past the quarterfinals.
After a bye, the top-seeded Murray will open in the second round against Bernard Tomic or Dustin Brown of Germany. Murray has won all five of his matches against Tomic, and he beat Brown in straight sets in their only meeting in 2010 at the U.S. Open.
If he finds his touch in time, he could set up a final against nine-time winner Rafael Nadal.
Nadal is seeking his 10th title at Monte Carlo this weekend. Then he will head down the Mediterranean coast to defend his crown in Barcelona.
The Real Club Tenis Barcelona announced on Friday it was renaming its center court in honor of Nadal.
Kei Nishikori, the 2014 and 2015 champion, was seeded second, but he pulled out shortly after Saturday's draw was announced.
Nishikori re-injured a right wrist during practice on Saturday morning, aggravating an injury from the Miami Open.