Andy Murray makes surprise clay-court U-Turn in Wimbledon preparation

Tennis icon Andy Murray will make a sooner-than-expected return to play after it was confirmed he'll line up as a wild card at the 2022 Madrid Open.

The two-time Wimbledon champion had previously indicated he'd miss the entire clay campaign in an effort to prepare for this year's Grand Slam at SW19. However, those plans have now changed as Murray targets a third title in the Spanish capital.

This year's Madrid Open gets underway on Tuesday (April 26) and is set to conclude on Sunday, May 8. Murray could also compete at the Italian Open —which starts on May 2—depending on how he progresses on clay.

However, it's understood the Scot remains unlikely to take part in this year's French Open as he instead focuses his efforts on Wimbledon. Murray reached the 2016 final at Roland Garros, where he succumbed to Novak Djokovic, but has since featured in just one of the past four tournaments in Paris.

"Right now I am not planning on playing through the clay," the 34-year-old said in February, appearing to rule himself out of this portion of the season. "The past couple of years, the clay has made issues worse; last year I had some issues at the beginning of the year, the clay didn't help, so I've spoken to my team about that and this year, while I feel good and healthy, I don't want to take that risk.

"It's not that I wouldn't potentially play on clay in the future. Last year I almost missed Wimbledon, was close to not playing the grass season, I'm not planning on playing the clay. I will still try to compete a bit during that period, I won't do nothing, that's my plan just now."

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He went on to say he was prioritising "a good build-up to the grass season," and it now appears a higher level of competition is the preferred method of preparation. Murray is celebrated as one of the best British players of all time, but he's been plagued by groin, hip and knee injuries.

Nevertheless, it's typical of his never-say-die attitude that a direct approach to his prep for the grass campaign appears to work best. Murray entered last year's Wimbledon Championship as a wild card and advanced to the third round before losing to Denis Shapovalov in straight sets.

Having reunited with coach Ivan Lendl —alongside whom Murray won each of his three major titles—the resurgent star is hoping to spark a turn in form. His last outing ended in a sixth straight second-round exit when he lost to Daniil Medvedev at the Miami Open in March, but clay could present a turning point.

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