Andy Murray joins the jet set in attempt to conquer Rome Masters

Scot uses private plane – and gives Tsonga a lift – for more practice time after Madrid Mastersexit

Andy Murray does not do flash. This is, after all, a man who sold his red Ferrari because he felt “a bit of a prat” when driving it, who travelled to Wimbledon ever day last year in a friend’s VW Polo and drank Irn Bru at a reception given by the British consul general in New York after his US Open victory.

The 25-year-old Scot has, nevertheless, joined the jet set. Following his defeat by Tomas Berdych in Madrid on Friday night, Murray flew here by private jet the following day for this week’s Rome Masters. He also offered a lift to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Some things never change, however. Murray wore a track suit for the flight and jeans for dinner. Tsonga, who ate in the same restaurant as Murray on Saturday evening, wore a jacket and tie on both occasions.

“I actually asked him about it when we saw him because we were very impressed at the effort he made,” Murray said yesterday with a smile. “I think he’d just done a deal with Tommy Hilfiger, so I think he was making more of an effort. Then when we got to the hotel, we actually ended up going to the same restaurant as him that night and he paid for my dinner to say thank you. He was wearing a different suit that night, so it was impressive.”

Murray, who today replaces Roger Federer at No 2 in the world rankings, flew with a company that specialises in corporate travel. It offers deals costing from €115,000 (about £97,000), which allow users to buy 25 hours of flight time in a seven-seater jet.

“It was the first time I’ve done it,” Murray said. “There are times on tour when it’s important to get somewhere as quickly as possible to give yourself the most amount of time to recover. A lot of players have done it over the years. Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal] and Novak [Djokovic] have been doing it for a number of years.

“For certain tournaments and certain situations it can help. Indian Wells to Miami is a good example. After I finished playing [Juan Martin] Del Potro in Indian Wells this year we drove four-and-a-half hours to Las Vegas, stayed in a hotel, got in at two in the morning and woke up at six to get on a flight to Miami. Whereas if you fly directly from Palm Springs you can get there in four-and-a-half hours, rather than 10-and-a-half hours. So there are certain times when I’ll do it. Obviously, it’s a luxury.”

Federer has been using private jets for several years. Asked yesterday whether he ever gave lifts to fellow players, the Swiss said: “I gave Rafa and his girlfriend a lift once, from Canada to Cincinnati. But no, my jet’s full. You don’t want to be on my jet with my kids, you know.”

Murray, who has earned $27m (about £17.6m) in prize money alone, can clearly afford the jet travel, though he has not boosted his earnings by much during the current clay-court season. After going out in the third round in Monte Carlo and the quarter-finals in Madrid he will be hoping for a good week here in his last tournament before the French Open, which starts in 13 days’ time.

“I’ll try to find ways to win matches,” Murray said. “It doesn’t always matter how well you’re hitting the ball if you can find a way to win.”

After a first-round bye Murray will play his opening match against the winner of yesterday’s meeting between Marcel Granollers and Nikolay Davydenko. Thereafter he is seeded to meet Kei Nishikori and Del Potro before a semi-final meeting with Federer. Djokovic, Nadal, David Ferrer and Berdych are all in the other half of the draw.

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