Home comforts can aid Andy Murray in closing gap

Murray has only spent about a week at home this year

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The Independent Online

A life on the road is what you sign up for when you become a professional tennis player, but there is still no place like home.

Wimbledon and the build-up to the most celebrated event in tennis is always a favourite time of the year for British players and for Andy Murray this year’s grass-court season follows six months on the road. The 28-year-old has barely paused for breath since leaving for his winter training camp in Miami in December.

“I’ve hardly spent any time at home this year,” Murray said in the wake of his 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1 defeat by Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the French Open. “The first few months of this year has probably been the least amount of time I’ve spent at home for six or seven years. I played quite a bit after Australia, with the Davis Cup and then Rotterdam and Dubai.

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Murray reacts after losing to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-final

“I’ve hardly been in my own bed more than seven or eight days this year, so it’s going to be nice to be home for a long stretch. All the British players love it. It’s nice being in front of a home crowd and staying in your own bed and having your friends and family around.”

Murray’s disappointment at not reaching his first French Open final was tempered by the knowledge that he had enjoyed the best clay-court season of his life – this was his only defeat in 16 matches on the surface this year – and had pushed Djokovic harder than any other player in Grand Slam or Masters Series tournaments this year.

The Scot takes encouragement from his performances against the world No 1 in both the Australian Open final, where he was up a break in the third set having levelled the match at one set apiece, and here in Paris, where he fought back from two sets down.

“I needed to start the match better here, but overall I don’t think I’m too far away,” Murray said when asked about his rivalry with Djokovic. “Australia is his best surface, his best tournament. He loves the conditions there.

“He’s also been much better than me over the years on clay courts. On grass we’ve only played a couple of times and I’ve played well against him. I prefer the conditions at the US Open and Wimbledon, so hopefully I can close the gap a bit more.”

Djokovic was on the other side of the net when Murray won both his Grand Slam titles, at the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013. And Murray said he would look forward to meeting him again at the All England Club, even though he has now lost to the Serb eight times in a row.

“It would mean that I would be in the semi-finals or the final, so I would obviously always sign up for that,” Murray said. “I know how difficult it is to go far in these events on a regular basis. Any time you get to play him or Roger [Federer] or Rafa [Nadal] it’s great, a great learning experience. You can always improve.”

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Murray and Djokovic embrace after the five-set thriller

This year, for the first time, there is a three-week gap in the calendar between the French Open and Wimbledon. Some players will enter an additional tournament – there are grass-court events this week in Stuttgart and  ’s-Hertogenbosch as well as a Challenger in Surbiton – but many of the top players will compete just once in the build-up to Wimbledon. Murray’s only appearance will be at next week’s Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club.

“It’s nice that I can get a few days’ break and then actually get some time to practise on the grass,” he said. “That’s a really positive thing.

“Normally when you do well at the French it can be quite difficult the first 10 days or so, because you go almost straight into playing matches and you get no break.

“I’m happy with where my game is now. It’s just about getting the right plan together between now and the start of Queen’s to rest and recover and then prepare well for the grass, because I feel like I’m playing well enough to do well.”

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