Jamie Murray: Home sweet home: Why these two weeks among Britpack is my favourite fortnight of year
My Week At Wimbledon
Saturday 25 June 2011
I've been on the road for 18 weeks this year. I've been to India, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the United States and to more stopping-off points in Europe than a backpacker on a gap year. Being a professional tennis player can be a great life, but I can't tell you how good it feels to have a month at home.
Going home every evening and sleeping in your own bed is a real treat. I live only a 20-minute walk from the All England Club, though I usually travel by car during this fortnight. I became a commuter during Queen's and even last week I was able to travel by train on the day of my first (and unfortunately only) match at Eastbourne.
Wimbledon is my favourite fortnight of the year, the best tournament in the world. I've been fortunate to have a pretty good record here. I won the mixed doubles with Jelena Jankovic four years ago, got to the semi-finals in the next two years and have twice got to the third round of the men's doubles.
For the British players the support we get here is better than anywhere else. When you walk to your matches everyone is wishing you good luck and afterwards there are all the kids wanting your autograph. I love the whole atmosphere.
I often watch matches in the locker room. Although it's a bit small there's a good buzz in there. We all have our individual lockers and the club puts all the players from each country alongside each other, so you always see a lot of the other British guys.
We see more of each other over this fortnight than we do at any other time of the year. Usually when I'm on the road there are only three or four of us around at most. As for my brother, he's had to get used to the fact that the other Brits often go home reasonably early, leaving him to fly the flag.
2. I played with natural but lost
I'm playing doubles with Sergiy Stakhovsky. I already knew him long before Andy beat him in the final of the US Open juniors in 2004. Finding a partner can be very time-consuming. I haven't had a regular partner since I split up with Max Mirnyi three years ago. A lot of players are in the same boat. Inevitably you end up being pretty selfish: everyone wants to find the best possible partner.
Teaming up with somebody who has a high ranking will get you into the bigger tournaments. I'm lucky enough to be able to play with Andy from time to time. We've played together in Masters Series and ATP 500 events, where you earn the most ranking points. I have 1,740 ranking points at the moment – I'm No 46 in the world – and 500 of that total came from one week's work in Valencia, where Andy and I won the title.
I texted Sergiy a couple of months ago asking if he wanted to play at the French Open and Wimbledon. He was already committed to playing with Mikhail Youzhny in Paris but was happy to team up with me on grass. Sergiy is Ukrainian but he's been spending quite a lot of time in London because his wife is studying here. He's very relaxed and jokes around a lot, but when it's time to play he's very focused. That's a real skill in itself. He's a natural for doubles, which you can see in his singles play. He's an all-rounder who plays well from the back of the court but also likes to come into the net. He won the doubles in Dubai in February and on grass at Halle last year.
The earlier you ask possible future partners the better. I've arranged to play with Xavier Malisse at Atlanta and Los Angeles after Wimbledon. I hope I might play with Andy at one of the Masters tournaments in the States but I don't know yet who will be my partner at the US Open. Sergiy and I did OK in the first round, when we beat a couple of my fellow Britons, David Rice and Sean Thornley, in straight sets, but we weren't able to follow it up yesterday. Marcel Granollers and Tommy Robredo, who are the No 14 seeds, beat us 7-5, 7-6, 6-1.
3. Doubles is dangerous game
I was fairly late getting on the case for a mixed doubles partner here but I'm pleased to be playing with Jarmila Gajdosova. She's world No 28 and got to the semi-finals of the mixed at the French Open. She hits big and has a good serve. Nadia Petrova and I made the semi-finals in Paris but she had already agreed to play with Mark Knowles here.
Jarmila will be hoping that I find the target with my serve better than I did in the first round of the men's, when I hit Sergiy straight in the ear after I tried to follow the ball when it moved in the wind. He was a bit dazed but thankfully there was no serious damage. In doubles you can get hit a lot. Sarah Borwell, one of the British girls, got hit on the head and had big problems for a long time after that with her vision and balance.
4. How wife raised my game
Tennis players can be terrible when playing in faraway places and never getting out to see anything. It's very easy to spend the whole time at your hotel or the tennis.
I'm doing things differently this year. I got married in October and Alejandra and I decided that she would travel with me for most of this year. Until she finished her studies in November she wasn't able to travel much but we decided it would be great if we could spend this year on the road together before she settles into a job. We thought: let's enjoy ourselves, spend time together and build a good foundation for our marriage.
It's been great fun and I'm sure it's one of the reasons why I've been playing better. We'll usually stay on for a couple of days after I've played my last match. In Houston we went to the Nasa space centre, from Nice we went to Cannes for the day and to Monaco for an afternoon and we loved walking around Rome and Madrid.
5. Andy's no shot in cook-off
The food in the player restaurant at Wimbledon isn't bad, but some places are not quite so good. It annoys me. It can't be right to welcome some of the best athletes in the world and then serve them up with awful food. I'd better not name names in case I need a wild card from one of them, but some tournaments get away with murder. It's not difficult to serve an average bowl of pasta, but some people can butcher it. The best food? The French tournaments are good and I also remember Montreal providing some decent grub.
Fortunately Alejandra is an excellent cook. She does great burritos and I love the burgers that she does with all the trimmings. When I was single I cooked a bit but only because I had to. I'd cook something like steak or salmon that you could either fry or chuck in the oven. Andy's even worse than me when it comes to cooking. He just doesn't have the patience.
6. Queen's has King of lounges
It's been a difficult week with the weather, though I've known worse. In 2007 I played my second-round men's doubles on the Friday and my third-round match the following Friday.
Sergiy and I had to come off for about 20 minutes in our first match. I just went to get a bite to eat and then waited in the locker room. The player restaurant can get very crowded when it's raining. There's a little lounge with computers, which I think they're going to extend, but otherwise there isn't a lot for the players to do other than sit at tables or in the locker room.
It's unlike Queen's, which probably has the best player lounge on the tour. There's a table tennis table, table football, computers and lots of space. Everyone can do their own thing and you don't have to worry about standing on your opponent's toes.
Jamie Murray uses the Dunlop Biomimetic 500 Tour racket. For more information go to: www.dunlopsport.com
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