Andy Murray has said that he hopes to stay as the world No 1 ‘for a long time’ despite the difficult start to this year and tough competition at the top.

Murray has been competing in the Barcelona open this week after coming back from an elbow injury and is trying to build match fitness and spend more time on clay courts before the French Open.

After Murray finished 2016 as the world’s top ranked player, he had a difficult start to 2017. His run of 28 consecutive wins was brought to an end by Novak Djokovic in Doha in January and then world No 35 Mischa Zcerev ended his hopes of winning a first Australian Open in Melbourne.

Murray’s first tournament win of the year came in Dubai but he was then defeated by world No 129 Vasek Pospisil at Indian Wells and he also suffered a surprise exit in Monte Carlo at the hands of Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

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However, Murray has spent years working to reach the top of the rankings and has said he intends to remain there for as long as possible.

Speaking to the ATP website he said, “You feel really proud at having reached the highest point, and I hope to stay there for a long time, but it’s hard. It took me 12 years to get there, and the physical and mental effort it took to do it last year was enormous. It’s not easy to stay there, but I hope I can. It’s always hard to maintain your ranking at the top of the game. A lot of the young ones are starting to play better and better, so it’s going to be tough.”

The French Open begins on May 22 which gives Murray just three more weeks of preparation time.