Andy Murray: Johanna Konta can thrive without Serena Williams

Andy Murray has backed Johanna Konta to challenge for grand slam titles this summer in the absence of Serena Williams.

The British No. 1 climbed to seventh in the world rankings on the back of the biggest tournament victory of her career at the Miami Open a month ago.

Only Karolina Pliskova and Caroline Wozniacki have collected more points this year so far and, with Williams on maternity leave, the women's field has arguably never been more open.

Asked if he saw Konta as a contender, Murray said: "I don't see why not. Right now the women's game is very open, with Serena being out for the foreseeable future, which makes it very exciting for a lot of the top women.

"No-one's sure who's going to step up in her absence and Jo obviously has a chance. Clay maybe isn't her favourite surface but, on the hard courts and the grass, there's no reason why she can't be right up there competing for the biggest tournaments and therefore the top spots in the rankings. It's a big few months coming up for her."

It has been a season interrupted by illness and injury for Murray but he spoke positively about his form heading into the busiest period of the calendar.

The Scot will play in the Masters events in Madrid and Rome over the next two weeks prior to the French Open before beginning his grass-court season at Queen's Club and then Wimbledon.

Murray won titles in three of those tournaments last year and reached the final in the other two.

He has won only three matches since February but feels he is close to hitting top form again after recovering from an elbow injury.

The 29-year-old said: "I was in a better place coming into the clay-court season this year than I was last year -- that's how I felt.

"Physically I needed to get some matches under my belt and to get three matches in Barcelona last week was big for me.

"My body's feeling good so I'm positive about the next few weeks. I need to obviously start winning matches and I'll try and do that."