Andy Murray: 'I need to be better at picking when to get pumped up'
The British No 1 acknowledges that on-court composure is crucial to winning a breakthrough Grand Slam. Paul Newman reports
Monday 20 June 2011
He is not about to turn into the ice man (Bjorn Borg), Mr Super Cool himself (Roger Federer) or even the classic British gentleman (Tim Henman), but Andy Murray is promising to change. Ever since he first caught the attention of the wider sporting public six years ago, when he reached the third round at Wimbledon as a raw 18-year-old, the Scot has berated himself during matches, scowled, cursed his coaches and screamed at nobody in particular. However, as he prepares for what could be his best chance yet to win the greatest prize in tennis, the world No 4 insists he is working on his on-court behaviour. "It is something that has to get better," he admits.
There were signs of the new, mellow Murray in west London last week, when he won the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club, a tournament which many of the great players in history have used as a launch pad for glory a few miles down the road at Wimbledon.
So confident in his game that he even played a winning through-the-legs trick shot on his way to victory in the final, Murray barely grimaced all week. It is not as though he has been a permanently angry young man on court in the past – his demeanour is often much better when he is facing opponents like Federer and Rafael Nadal, for whom he clearly has the utmost respect – but it has usually been only a matter of time before the kettle boils over.
The lid may well come off again when the temperature rises at his home Grand Slam tournament, beginning with today's first-round match against Spain's Daniel Gimeno-Traver, but Murray knows there have been times when his negative body language has played into opponents' hands. "In some matches where I have been up you can let guys back in and let them feel like they have a chance to get back into it if you are getting down on yourself," he said. "It is something that I am looking to change."
Murray acknowledged that sections of the public have not liked his on-court behaviour in the past, but insisted: "The thing that is difficult for me when I'm on the court and when you're in that pressure situation and the stress levels are at their highest, you are likely to say something you don't mean or get angry and upset. Whereas in the last two matches I played I felt good on the court, really calm. I felt I got pumped up at the right time and I wasn't using up too much energy – and that is definitely something I need to improve on.
"I think I'm a decent guy. I don't feel I'm rude to people. I take time to sign autographs, take pictures. I'm not rude – I have got good manners. But on the court, I'm fighting. That's my job, it's when I'm at my most stressed and I sometimes do things that I shouldn't."
Murray's coaching staff – currently fronted by Darren Cahill, who has been working with him since the start of the clay-court season, and Dani Vallverdu, the Scot's best friend and fellow former graduate of the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona – have often been the butt of angry Andy's tirades.
However, Murray stressed: "A lot of the time when I'm on the court, I'm annoyed at myself and I'm saying stuff to the guys in the box like: 'Why have I hit that so badly?' – with different words, obviously! It's not getting angry with them. I'm getting angry with myself. I don't know if it's sub-conscious, but when I get pumped up, I always look towards my box and when I get pissed off, I always look towards the box too.
"That's something we've spoken about before. I've spoken to Darren, I've spoken to Dani about it. It's something I'm focusing on. I have focused on it in the last two matches in particular and it's something I will focus on a lot during Wimbledon as well. It's something that has to get better."
What do his entourage say to him after matches, having sat for two or three hours in their box while their man shouts at them? "It depends on what I say and how often I'm doing it. If they feel it's bad for my game, which in some matches it has been, then they will tell me. It's because I'll have been using up energy."
Nevertheless, Murray said that getting himself fired up with some fist-pumping has often had a positive effect on his game. "It's not about doing it from the first point until the last. It's about picking your moments to get pumped up. It's not a problem to get angry or upset. It's about not doing it throughout the match. Five sets is a long time on the court. I just need to get better at it and I will."
Murray admitted that there had been times in the past when he had been unhappy with the people he was working with but found the situation difficult to handle. "It's not easy when you're 20 or 22 and you're telling someone who is 45 or 50 that they are not doing their job properly. In a lot of sports you have a manager telling you what to do and if you don't listen to them then it's not good.
"In tennis there needs to be much more communication with the coach and guys you are working with. I struggled a bit with that early in my career. You need to make decisions for yourself and be around people who are going to listen, I feel like I've got that just now."
Murray said the toughest decisions he has made were parting company with Miles Maclagan and Alex Corretja, his last two coaches. "I'm good friends with both of them and that's where it can get very difficult and emotionally it's hard. You know you're doing the right thing but it's a difficult thing to do. But you do benefit in the long run. It's difficult for a few days afterwards, getting used to not having around you people who've been there for three or four years, but I felt it was pretty much the right thing to do at the right time."
Another area in which Murray has learnt from past mistakes is his dealings with the media. He has always been polite and cooperative in his dealings with the press, but has been more careful in what he says ever since the stick he took for his throwaway joke before the 2006 World Cup that he would be supporting any team other than England, who were playing Paraguay in their first match.
"At the time it was a horrible period for me, certainly in the way I felt towards the press in general, how I acted in press conferences in general. I was bitter about the whole thing. It really disappointed me and I understood then that I needed to grow up, handle myself better and stick up for myself better too.
"I still hear it sometimes and a lot of people still say it to me: 'Why did you buy a Paraguay shirt?' I say: 'Trust me, I never bought a Paraguay shirt. I did say I would support anyone but England, but I definitely did not buy a Paraguay shirt.' It was a joke but some people remember those things more than others."
He added: "A Queen's member came up to me the other day and said: 'I support you all the time, congratulations on everything, but a lot of my friends don't like you because you're Scottish.' I was like: 'OK, that's fine.' A lot of people feel that way. I think the England-Scotland rivalry is fun, it's a good thing, it's banter. I joke about it with my friends all the time and have a good laugh about it. I have lots of English friends, but I'm proud to be Scottish. I just get on with it now and don't let it worry me."
'I felt like a prat: Why Murray got rid of his Ferrari
* The red Ferrari has gone because he felt "a bit of a prat" when driving it and has been replaced by an Aston Martin, but Andy Murray has been using a different vehicle of late. "I've been driving the Volkswagen Polo, which was my first car, as it's easier to get around London," he said.
"I enjoyed driving around in the Ferrari, but I did feel like a prat when I got out of it. I'm quite a conservative driver and I never usually get honked, but when I was driving the Ferrari I was getting beeped for anything I did, so I thought: 'Maybe I am a bit of a prat, so get rid of it.'
"People look at the Aston Martin and think that's really nice. Maybe that's because it's British and it's not red. It's quieter and more classy. It's gun metal. It doesn't have tinted windows. I'm happy for people to see me, though I don't drive it that much."
Murray added: "I don't think anyone wants people honking at them or getting annoyed just because of the car you're driving. I enjoyed driving a Ferrari. It was good for me to experience it but it was something that I didn't need and wasn't necessarily me."
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