Beckham helps Murray to handle the pressure

Scot benefits from advice of England football star ahead of home Grand Slam
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The Independent Online

You might never have guessed that Wimbledon starts today. On Friday Andy Murray played golf, went go-karting and did not pick up a tennis racket all day. Last night the man hoping to be the first male British winner here for 73 years was back home playing a table football tournament with friends.

When he goes on court for his first match tomorrow, Murray should be as relaxed as an MP who has forgotten to claim his expenses.

In recent weeks Murray has had the chance to seek some good advice on coping with pressure.

This will be the 22-year-old Scot's first Wimbledon since signing up with 19 Entertainment, the management company which counts David Beckham among its clients. The two sportsmen have met since and the tennis player sees the footballer as a good example of someone who has learned how to handle fame.

"I guess that when you start out you need to try to keep the same friends, the same people you have around you, be true to yourself and do things that are important to you," Murray said. "I think when you start changing as a person and getting an inflated opinion of yourself, and having a big ego, is when it becomes a problem. It happens a lot in sport nowadays and David Beckham has done a great job of not letting all the fame and pressure get to him."

Murray and Beckham went to Downing Street two months to join Gordon Brown in the launch of an anti-malaria campaign. "Going to Downing Street was a bit strange, but very few people get the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister and it was very, very nice," Murray said.

"We chatted very briefly. He seemed to know pretty much about everything that was going on and I guess he had the understanding that the tennis tour wasn't solely about Wimbledon, which was a long way away when I spoke to him. He just wished me luck for the season, not for Wimbledon." Murray agreed that any pressure he felt was on a different level to what the Prime Minister might experience. "That's one job I would definitely not want to do," he said. "It's very, very tough what those guys are under. It's way, way harder than what I do, that's for sure."

While Murray has sought out the best professional advice, he said there were occasions when he looked closer to home if he felt things were going wrong. "I ask my parents for advice because they're the ones who are going to tell you the truth, not just any random people, because they don't know you as a person.

"If they were to tell me, 'You're acting up' or 'You're being an idiot on the court', or in interviews, I'd definitely listen to them. I'd be very disappointed in myself if I felt like they had to say that to me. They haven't as yet and I hope they won't have to in the future."

Murray practised here yesterday before going to the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton for an ice bath and a massage and then heading home. He would have played his first match today but for Rafael Nadal's withdrawal. Murray was in the same half of the draw as Nadal and would have played on the same days as the Spaniard, who as defending champion was due to open proceedings on Centre Court. That honour goes to Roger Federer, who plays Yen-Hsun Lu.

Federer and Murray are seeded to meet in the final. Murray has won their last four matches and leads 6-2 in their head-to-head record, though Federer pointed out yesterday that he had won on the two occasions they had met in finals. "I don't want to make excuses but he played me at a time when I had back problems which made it hard for me to call on my best performance level," Federer told BBC Radio Five Live.

"He played me the right way and was very successful. He's a great tactician. I like to watch him play. He's a very tough challenge." Federer said that Murray had coped well with the pressures at Queen's Club, where the Scot won the Aegon Championships eight days ago. "I think he's become such a good player now it's not going to affect him much," added Federer.