Murray feared time at top was over


Published: Saturday 27th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Andy Murray has credited Amelie Mauresmo with setting him up for another crack at Wimbledon glory after fearing his days at the top were numbered.

The state of the Scot’s game came into sharp focus last year when he drifted out of the world’s top 10, and a bountiful career had reached a critical crossroads.

But as Mauresmo prepares for a temporary parting of the ways with Murray, to have her first child, it is the Frenchwoman’s influence which has been held up by the 28-year-old as a principal factor in his resurgence.

Murray is long past having to bear questioning of his decision to hire a woman as his coach, with the wisdom of his choice fully vindicated by results, especially this season.

“The last 12 months that I’ve been with her, I feel like I’ve come through some difficult moments,” Murray said.

“I had an extremely tough loss at the end of last year. She was one of the people that really stuck by me and supported me.”

Murray added: “I kind of realised at the end of last year that I didn’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to play at the top level again, so I needed to do everything possible that I can, you know, my training, really dedicate myself 100 per cent to the time I have left.”

The mauling that Murray refers to was the 6-0 6-1 defeat he suffered at the hands of Roger Federer in the season-closing ATP Tour Finals, at London’s O2 Arena.

From that London low, to a second Wimbledon triumph in a fortnight’s time being a seriously discussed possibility, shows how far Murray has moved beyond the brutal loss at Federer’s hands.

And while most of the hard yards have been his, without the driving influence of Mauresmo he might be approaching Wimbledon in an entirely different mindset.

“I’m glad that I’ve been able to kind of repay her faith in me with some good tennis this year,” Murray said.

“Obviously she’s a very different character to some of the coaches that I’ve had in the past. I’ve really enjoyed working with her.”

Jonas Bjorkman, the Swede who adored the Wimbledon grass in his playing days and was a singles semi-finalist at the age of 34 in 2006, is stepping up to take over Mauresmo’s responsibilities.

A decade has passed since Murray first stepped through the Wimbledon gates to play the men’s event, with David Nalbandian stopping the teenager in round three.

“It was very different for me back then coming into the event. There was no pressure, no expectation,” Murray said.

“I didn’t put any pressure or expectation on myself. I was just glad to be given the opportunity to play here.

“The attention in that week when I was playing, it went from being zero to loads really. After my second‑round match, I had a mixed doubles match. I couldn’t get out to the court. When I was going back to the place where I was staying, I had people following me, photographers and stuff.

“It was a lot more hectic back then for me away from the court. But there was also way, way less pressure. So it was very different to now.”

He starts the tournament as second favourite, and Murray’s triumph two years ago means he fears nobody on grass.

Twelve months ago it was a Murray still hampered by worries about his back who turned up and won four matches in straight sets before being sent home in the same manner by Grigor Dimitrov.

The back he trusts now. After years of trying to make a red-dirt breakthrough, Murray has played the clay-court season of his career, taking titles in Munich and Madrid and reaching the French Open semi-finals, following that by landing Queen’s Club glory on grass.

His draw might be difficult, with Mikhail Kukushkin the Tuesday opener he is focusing on feasibly to be followed by clashes with the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer before the final.

But Murray is determined there should be no missed opportunities at this stage of his career.

“Obviously I want to try to enjoy it as best as I can,” he said. “A lot of ex‑players that I’ve heard talk about it, the ones I’ve spoken to, have said, ‘At the end really make sure you get every last ounce out of yourself because these will be the best years of your life’.”

Which is why there is no particular reason Murray should not triumph at Wimbledon this year, even taking into account his eight straight losses to world number one Novak Djokovic.

The last time they played on grass, Murray won Wimbledon. The previous time, Murray fought off Djokovic to reach the Olympic final, also at Wimbledon.

“I enjoy playing in the high‑pressure situations,” Murray said. “You know, that’s really what I play for now. I enjoy these events. I prepare extremely hard for them.

“I feel like I’m coming in to the event as best prepared as I can be. And, yeah, hopefully I can perform well.”

Published: Saturday 27th June 2015 by The News Editor

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