Top seed Andy Murray faces 16th seed Feliciano Lopez in the Men's singles third round of 2017 Barcelona Open at Real Club de Tennis on Thursday.
The world number one, who had a first-round bye, progressed to the R16 match after his second-round opponent Bernard Tomic withdrew yesterday with injury. On the other hand, Lopez decimated compatriot Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-2 to set up the clash with Murray.
With a 13-4 record so far this season, Murray will have to get back to his best and win titles if he has to stand a chance of retaining his top spot in ATP rankings. Notably, he won only one title (Dubai Tennis Championships) on hard court this season after facing disappointments in Doha and Australian Open.
The Scot has played only three games since he outclassed Fernando Verdasco in the final of Dubai. He faced an early exit at Indian Wells and skipped Miami Open before he was dumped out of Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month in the second round by eventual runner-up Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Having not taken to court yet in the ongoing tournament, Murray is likely to start rusty but the numero uno should take confidence from his 10-0 head-to-head record over Lopez. A good start against the local player will give him a lot of confidence as a potential quarter-final clash against Ramos-Vinolas is on the cards.
Lopez started his clay campaign this season well by reaching the quarter-final in Houston but an early exit at Monte Carlo came as a big setback. With a 6-8 record this season, Lopez will be looking to put one across Murray, who is making a comeback after an elbow injury layoff but the Spaniard has to be at his best to stand a chance.