Andy Murray: 'I finally deserve a place in Fab Four' at Wimbledon 2013
Andy Murray tells Paul Newman that winning a Grand Slam has made him feel less awkward as a member of the elite with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer
He has had a Ferrari and an Aston Martin and his girlfriend drives a Porsche, but if Andy Murray makes his own way into the All England Club this week he is likely to use the humbler vehicle he has owned ever since passing his driving test five years ago. The 26-year-old Scot, who once admitted that he had sold his Ferrari because he felt "a bit of a prat" driving it, claimed that using a more modest form of transport has its advantages. "Because it's a Volkswagen Polo I don't think many people look at it," Murray said. "The reason I kept it is because it's a good car to pick people up from the station, that sort of thing."
The 20-minute drive from Murray's home in Surrey to Wimbledon is becoming a familiar one. The All England Club was almost a second home last summer, when the Olympic tournament was staged just three weeks after the Championships, and during the rest of the year Murray has become a regular visitor.
"I spend a lot more time there than I used to and I just feel more comfortable there because of that," he said. "I know a lot of the people who work there, all the locker-room attendants, a lot of the members and the people that run the club."
Every now and then he cannot resist taking a quick peek inside Centre Court. "They had the women's final result from last year and the men's final result from last year up on the scoreboard," he laughed. "So that wasn't exactly the best memory.
"The reason why I would go out to Centre Court is to remember all the matches that I've played there. You also think how many matches have actually taken place there, some of the best matches in the history of the sport, and how many of the best players that have ever played the game have played there. Ten years ago when I went there, I would never have thought about that. I just wanted to play my match and I wasn't thinking about anything else. But that changes the more you play there and the more time you spend there.
"I played there the first time when I was maybe 14 in the juniors and, to me, it just felt like a massive tennis event really. I didn't know loads about the history of the tournament when I was playing there. But I've started to take more of an interest in that side of things and probably just started to understand how important it is within tennis, how important that club is."
After his experiences last year, when he became the first Briton to play in the Wimbledon men's singles final for 74 years and went on to win Olympic gold, Murray is now the favourite of many to end the country's 77-year wait for a men's champion.
The world No 2, who begins his eighth senior Wimbledon campaign against Germany's Benjamin Becker this afternoon, has an outstanding record at the All England Club, is one of the best players on grass and is in excellent form, having won his third Queen's Club title last weekend. Provided he has no further problems with the lower back injury that forced him to miss the recent French Open – and the signs so far are good – it would almost seem a natural progression for him to lift the winner's trophy aloft in 13 days' time.
Is winning Wimbledon now his top priority, given that last year he won Olympic gold and claimed his first Grand Slam title at the US Open? "I don't want to put it like that," Murray said. "I think that would be counter-productive. I want to win Wimbledon and I've given myself a chance for a few years, but you've got to remember there are so many great players around just now. Sometimes you have to think, 'Look, this isn't going to happen'. I thought about that before the US Open last year, that maybe I wouldn't ever win a Grand Slam and maybe I'll never win Wimbledon, but it won't be through lack of trying."
Murray has long been regarded as one of the game's Big Four, along with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but he admitted: "Until I started to win more of the major events and get right to the end of the Slams, for a while it was tough to maybe feel that I was a part of that. But a lot of people talk about it now. I think tennis is in a really, really good place just now and I'm glad to be a part of that."
Although he has never been entirely comfortable in the public glare, Murray said he had begun to find the fame game easier to deal with. "Until I'd won a Grand Slam I didn't feel that comfortable with what I had achieved, so I probably feel a lot better about myself and in public than a year ago," he said. "But I don't know if you ever get used to having your picture taken in the street or at dinner or anything like that."
Murray has never watched a re-run of his defeat by Federer in last year's final –"I've seen the last point and that's it" – but he has clearly reflected on the match. Having taken the opening set, which was the first he had won in four Grand Slam finals against Federer, he eventually lost in four sets, the match having swung in his opponent's favour after the Centre Court roof was closed because of rain.
"Maybe if I had played like I had done in Slam finals before or in big matches before, where I'd kind of waited for my opponent to miss, who knows, maybe I could have won the second set," he said. "But I didn't. I went for it and it didn't go my way."
One video clip Murray has enjoyed watching repeatedly in the last week was his drive volley into the body of his coach, Ivan Lendl, at last Sunday's charity match at Queen's Club in support of the Royal Marsden Hospital, which has been treating his close friend Ross Hutchins for cancer. "Ivan was angry," Murray smiled. "His neck went really red. When I watched it over, I think inside he was really angry. He dealt with it really well, but he wasn't happy."
Hutchins's illness, meanwhile, has helped to give Murray a fresh perspective on life. "Ross and I would message each other almost every day of the year, so if I'd had a bad day and he's messaged me asking how I'm doing you think twice before you reply, because, yeah, I haven't actually had a bad day. It's not been that bad. Yes, I didn't practise particularly well, I didn't play particularly well in my match. But I'm healthy, I feel good and you've got someone who you're very close to, a young guy, and you wouldn't expect anything like that to happen to him.
"He was obviously going through a rough time. He dealt with it really, really well the first few months and I think the last couple of months, especially, got pretty hard."
Murray in his own words
"There's obviously people who go on there just to abuse athletes or celebrities. I mean you get criticism in everything you do, in everyone's jobs they get that, it's just something you have got to deal with."
"I've been listening to a lot of John Mellencamp. I like Ed Sheeran. I like Pharell's songs. I would say 90 per cent of the players listen to music before they go on. You know the locker room at a Grand Slam, there's like 128 players at the beginning. It's very, very loud with coaches and physical trainers."
"My nickname when I was a kid was Bamm Bamm, from the Flintstones because I used to get so angry, I'd be bashing things around."
"When I first started playing on the tour I didn't eat well at all. First time I played Wimbledon, Pizza Express was my post-match meal, whereas I'd never dream of doing that now."
"I dreamt after a Wimbledon loss that I'd won the title, then I woke up and hadn't. After the US Open win I dreamt that I'd lost. When I woke up and then when I realised that I'd won, that's when it started to sink in."
"When you're 17, 18, you don't have any pain in your body, you don't need to see the physio every day. But when you've been playing on the tour for four or five years, things do start hurting and you need to make sure you have good people around."
Highs and lows: Murray's year
July 2012 Loses Wimbledon final to Roger Federer
September 2012 Beats Djokovic in US Open final
Jan 2013 Loses Australian Open final to Djokovic
August 2012 Wins gold medal at the London Olympics
May 2013 Out of French Open with back injury
June 2013 Back on form with Queen's title win
Wednesday Seeded second for Wimbledon
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