Andy Murray: The Scot with the lot

Andy Murray has shown his mental as well as technical ability by defeating Lleyton Hewitt to win the San Jose Open
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The Independent Online

Murray, 18, became the youngest Briton to win a senior tournament when he beat the Australian Lleyton Hewitt, the former Wimbledon and US Open champion, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 to round off the best week of his professional life. He is now No 47 in the rankings (he is the youngest player in the top 50), only four places behind Greg Rusedski and seven behind Henman.

The victory on Sunday completed a rapid turnaround in Murray's fortunes after a quiet start to the year. He had won only two of his first six matches in 2006 and had lost in the first round of the Australian Open.

"When I came back from Australia I sat down and had a long chat with my coach, and I spoke with Tim," Murray said. "I learned a lot in Australia. It was my first time over there. I'd never played on Rebound Ace before. I'd never played in Australia before, in those conditions. I felt under a bit of pressure out there."

Henman advised Murray on how to deal with those pressures and has since been helping him with his game. Although Murray declined to give any more details, he added: "Tim's helped me a lot. He believes in me more than a lot of people. To have somebody supporting me who's been as good as him gives me a lot of confidence. I felt better going on this trip than I had going into any of the other tournaments that I've played."

Murray won in California despite the absence of his coach, Mark Petchey, who wanted to spend half-term with his children. Keeping company with Murray instead was his girlfriend, Kim Sears, the daughter of the British tennis coach Nigel Sears. Murray raced into the crowd to kiss her after his triumph and agreed that her presence had helped him to relax.

"Hopefully she'll come to a few more tournaments," Murray said, adding that he had spoken to Petchey on Saturday night after beating Andy Roddick in the semi-finals. "He was a bit worried I was going to sack him and hire my girlfriend," Murray said.

Memphis, where he will be joined this week by Petchey, is the next stop on Murray's schedule as he concentrates on the American hardcourt surfaces which are so much to his liking. He then goes to Las Vegas ­ "I found out the other day that you can't gamble in Las Vegas until you're 21, so I was a little bit disappointed. That was the thing I was most looking forward to," he joked ­ before playing Masters Series tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.

Murray claimed his biggest scalp when he beat Roddick, the world No 3, in the San Jose semi-finals ­ the Scot woke up in the middle of Saturday night and could not sleep as he came to terms with that achievement ­ while his victory over Hewitt, the world No 11, showed that he can handle the pressure of a final. After a poor start, Murray took control, combining controlled power with the inventiveness that has become his trademark.

Hewitt has not won a title for more than a year after a series of injuries but returned to play in the Australian Open last month and is starting to find his feet again. The Australian had not lost a set all week and made a flying start in the final, breaking Murray's serve three times in the first set.

However, Murray quickly rediscovered his rhythm in the second set. Playing mainly from the back and choosing carefully when to attack, he started to outfox Hewitt with his clever variations of pace and angle. The Australian, perhaps unnerved by the power of Murray's returns, was broken twice as the Scot took a 3-0 lead. He won the set when Hewitt served a double-fault on set point.

Service breaks were traded regularly in the final set. Despite Hewitt's erratic serve, booming aces twice came to his rescue on match point. Murray, however, kept up his steely mask ­ "I've been working on not showing too much emotion because against the top guys they give you so little and can come back from any position," he said ­ and took immediate control of the tie-break. He set up match point with a 126mph ace and secured victory at 6-3 with a clever crosscourt backhand.

"In the tie-break, I decided not to come off the court with regrets, saying I could have gone for it a bit more," Murray said. "I went for some big shots and it paid off."

While the bookmakers were cutting odds on Murray to win everything this year from Wimbledon (25-1 from 33-1) to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (6-1 second favourite behind Wayne Rooney from 16-1), the player himself was keeping a sense of perspective.

"This might get me to the top 50, but there are still 49 guys out there who are better," he said. "Memphis is going to be pretty difficult. I'll only have one day of practice on those courts. I'm just going to take things one match at a time."

He added: "At the start of the week I think hardly anybody in San Jose knew who I was. But after I won the first set against Roddick I think a lot of them probably started to enjoy watching me play."

Hewitt, who said that Murray returned serve particularly well, compared the Scot's rise to that of Rafael Nadal, the world No 2. "I think he's a guy who's confident out there and that's what it takes to make it on the tour at a young age," the Australian said. "That's why Nadal and Andy have done well at such a young age. Murray's going to continue to get better and better in the next few years."

Hewitt also compared Murray to Miloslav Mecir, the Slovakian who was one of the game's most skilful and unpredictable players. "I guess there haven't been too many 18-year-olds in the last five years or so with that kind of skill," he said. "He hits the ball extremely well. He mixes it up extremely well.

"He's a great prospect for British tennis. He mixes his pace on his serve and groundstrokes, too. He changes things up out there and it's one of the best parts of his game. He's definitely got firepower to use."

Murray was followed on court by John McEnroe and Jonas Bjorkman, who won the doubles tournament by beating Paul Goldstein and Jim Thomas 7-6, 4-6, 10-7 to give the 47-year-old American his first ATP title for 12 years.

McEnroe was impressed by what he had seen of Murray over the previous week. "I predicted a few months ago that Murray would be in the top 20 around Wimbledon and I think there is an excellent chance of that happening," he said. "You see a guy like Murray and you see the potential that is there. The sky is the limit, it really is."

Record industry: Murray's milestones

* YOUNGEST WINNERS OF FIRST ATP TITLES

Lleyton Hewitt 16yrs 10mths

Bjorn Borg 17 yrs 11mths

Rafael Nadal 18yrs 3mths

Andy Roddick 18yrs 8mths

Andy Murray 18yrs 9mths

Roger Federer 19yrs 6mths

Pete Sampras 19yrs 6mths

Greg Rusedski 19yrs 10mths

Tim Henman 22yrs 4mths

* HOW MANY ATP TITLES BRITISH MEN HAVE WON

Greg Rusedski (1993-2005) 15

Tim Henman (1997-2003) 11

Mark Cox (1970-77) 10

Roger Taylor (1970-1975) 7

Gerald Battrick (1971) 2

Buster Mottram (1975) 2

Jeremy Bates (1994) 1

John Lloyd (1974) 1

Andy Murray (2006) 1

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