Andy Murray took time to reach his peak – now he must work out how to stay there

 

In all those years when he appeared to be on the brink of greatness but could never quite make the final leap, Andy Murray kept insisting that he would not be playing his best tennis until he reached his mid-twenties. How right he was.

At 26 the Wimbledon champion is the holder of two Grand Slam titles and is the reigning Olympic champion. The world rankings say that Novak Djokovic is the best player on the planet, but Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, is not the only one who might contest that claim.

As befits a player who never ceases to work on his game and his fitness, Murray's progress, from the day he won his first senior match at Queen's Club eight years ago, has been steady but relentless. He has taken time to scale the heights – since Arthur Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975, only the 29-year-old Goran Ivanisevic has been an older first-time champion at the All England Club – but now that he is there the future holds the promise of many more such moments.

Murray knew from his early days on the Tour as a wiry young man prone to cramping that he would not peak physically for a good few years. "When I first came on the Tour I wasn't particularly strong," Murray reflected last week in the wake of his historic Wimbledon triumph. "I was weak, if anything. I had the game, but you can't work so hard in the space of a year that you just become massive and unbelievably fit. It takes time to build that up. You'll get injured if you work too hard too soon.

"I knew that when I got into my mid-twenties I'd be fitter and that's helped. It's also about maturing. I wasn't that mature when I was 18 or 19. I was still young and I was struggling to deal with some of the things that came with it. Now I'm dealing with it much better."

Murray even took his time to develop a desire to win Wimbledon. "When you're growing up, some people say, 'I want to win Wimbledon.' But you don't really understand what that means until you get there and you're playing in the event.

"It would have been when I was around 18 or 19 that I started to think a bit more about it. When I played at Wimbledon for the first time I got a taste of it. That was when I really wanted to win it."

Now that he has climbed the summit Murray faces the challenge of staying there. Although the succession to the current Big Four is far from clear – the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic have all threatened to make breakthroughs but have yet to realise their potential – Murray expects that the competition at the very top will remain as fierce as ever.

Djokovic, who is one week younger than the Scot, is likely to be a major rival for years to come, and the Scot believes it is far too early to dismiss the chances of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

"Rafa came back and made nine finals in a row, won the French Open and for sure he wasn't 100 per cent fit when he was playing at Wimbledon," Murray said. "He's 27 and if he stays healthy then he's going to be at the top of the game for a long time. He has a great record against everyone at the top of the game.

"I think Roger will stay there or thereabouts in all of the Slams, maybe just not as consistently as he was in the past, because it's impossible to keep that up for so long.

"The fact that he did it for 10 years was amazing."

Murray said he had no target in mind for the number of Grand Slam titles he might win in the future. "I just want to try to win the next one," he said. "I hope that's how it is for the rest of my career. I just don't see a point in setting a number on it. I just want to try and win the next Grand Slam I play in and prepare for each one like it's my last.

"I'm competing against some of the best players ever. I've played them many times and had some great matches with them. I'm just happy that I've been able to win some of these tournaments."

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before