Murray: Yes, I've got a problem. But it's not all in my head

Murray hits back angrily at critics as he 'locks in mentally' for Wimbledon

Andy Murray has grown used to the attention, the hype and even the criticism. It goes with the territory when you are Britain's best male tennis player for three-quarters of a century and Wimbledon is just around the corner. He handles most of it like the seasoned professional that he is, but for a moment last week the 25-year-old Scot's patience finally ran out.

As Murray looked ahead to his chances over the next fortnight, it was put to him that John McEnroe had suggested that the back problem with which he has been dealing of late – and which led to Virginia Wade describing him as "a drama queen" at the recent French Open – might be a mental issue as much as a physical one.

"If someone is going to say to me that my back injury is not genuine, they can come see my reports from the doctors, they can see the pictures of a needle about eight inches long in my back," a clearly agitated Murray snapped. "I'm not accepting it any more because it's not fair."

He added: "A lot of people have suggested that it hasn't been genuine, but I've a genuine injury, a genuine back problem. It's not a mental thing. Often when things do start to get better, for a little while you can be over-sensitive in that area and think, 'Oh, is that maybe right? Is that not right?' or whatever. But with my back problem, it's certainly nothing that's mental. It's something that's there."

Although Murray has steadfastly refused to specify the injury, he revealed that he had had eight pain-killing injections in his back last month before the French Open. "It's a problem I had for a while at the beginning of the year," he said. "I played through it for five months and it just got worse and then I took the injections and it feels better since I had them done."

Murray is hoping he will not need any more injections over the course of the summer. "Guys get painkillers and pain-killing injections before big events all the time and you need to just take them at the right time, because they do last for quite a long time, but you don't exactly want them to wear off," he said.

After a fortnight in which his preparations for Wimbledon have been far from ideal – he lost first time out in the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club, where he had won the title in two of the previous three years, and has had to dodge the showers to practise on grass – Murray said he would feel a sense of relief once the competition starts.

"You get more locked in mentally the closer the tournament gets," he said. "You practise without putting so much mental energy into the points. You work hard, but try and relax. You don't want to go into the tournament fatigued because you've been really stressed out in practice. That's why being at home helps.

"The people I spend time with during Wimbledon are Kim [his girlfriend, Kim Sears] and then one or two friends. My family come down, but I don't spend much time with them during the tournament. They come to watch and hang out with each other. I spend time with them when the tournament is done."

Who prepares the meals at home? "Kim normally cooks and occasionally I'll help her," he said, before adding with a smile: "I'll cut up some vegetables or something."

He added: "For the two weeks of the tournament you are trying to relax a bit on the days off, but, for me, you still have to make sure you are eating the right things and watching your diet. You have to make sure you are hydrated and taking all the vitamins and stuff. It's not like you completely switch off. You still have to do all the right things for your preparation."

After a good start to the year – in his marathon semi-final at the Australian Open he went closer to beating Novak Djokovic, the eventual champion, than Rafael Nadal did in the final – Murray had a moderate spring campaign. Since losing to Djokovic in the Miami final he failed to go beyond the quarter-finals in any of the five tournaments he played, although four were on clay, always his most challenging surface.

In Melbourne he thought he had closed the gap on the players above him. Did he feel that was still the case, or have Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer pulled away from him again over the last few months?

"To me things change in tennis on a weekly basis," Murray said. "It's about what happened last week and then what happens at Wimbledon. If I was to win Wimbledon next week everyone would say, 'There's no gap any more.' It's all about whether I can play my best tennis and if I can put all the things I've been doing in practice into the matches. In Australia I did a good job at that and played some top-quality tennis. In some of the tournaments since I haven't played as well. So I need to play my best."

Murray, who has been working full-time with his coach, Ivan Lendl, for the last five weeks, believes that the standards at the top of men's tennis have risen sharply in the last two or three years. He reckons the improvement is purely down to the players' better physical performance.

"You could watch videos of all of the guys playing from two years ago and they haven't changed their technique," he said. "I haven't seen anyone change a specific shot, in the way they hit the shot, but you look at the speed that guys are moving around the court, how quick they are to retrieve balls and moving forward to the net – guys are quicker.

"Everything looks much faster. When you see a video of guys playing from 20 years ago, it just looks literally like slow-motion – even 10 years ago. I watched Rafa playing against Roger in the final in Miami [in 2005] and you look at the speed they're hitting the ball at then and compare it to how it is now, it's just so much quicker."

Odds On: What will happen this year.

Some wag will shout ‘Come on, Tim!’ during Murray’s matches. And the Wimbledon crowd will laugh because it’s really funny. No really, it’s funny and he loves it.

A new players’ food fad will be uncovered. Last year it was sushi, before that bananas, pasta and isotonic drinks. Blood oxygen boosting beetroot juice, anyone?

If a British player does manage to reach the second round, Henman Hill will be renamed Bloggs Bulge or some other nonsense.

Murray will be lauded as a great British player until he loses, at which point he will revert to being Scottish.

The Duchess of Cambridge will be in the Royal Box − she’s a tennis fan.

The Queen will not be in the Royal Box−she finds tennis boring. Something about its lack of equine involvement.

There will be a record crowd on at least one day. It happens every year as the All England Club manage to find yet another corner to squeeze more people into. All that overpriced merchandise in the shop has to be sold, after all.

The roof on Centre Court will be closed, as rain is predicted for later this week (and it cost £100 million, so it would be a shame not to use it).

Andy Murray fever will go bonkers in the first week.

Murray fever will come to an abrupt halt in the second week (we hope we’re wrong).

An umpire will get tongue tied over an ova or-eva player’s multi-syllabled name. The crowd will titter because mispronouncing foreigners’ names is really funny, isn’t it?

Stories complaining that strawberries and cream are hideously expensive this year will appear in tomorrow’s paper.

A player (probably a man) will be fined for swearing or unsportsmanlike behaviour. Void if you have David Nalbandian in your sweepstake.

A player (probably a woman) will wear something outrageous or against the rules. She will be guaranteed press coverage, if not a place in the next round.

During Murray’s opening warm-up, Fred Perry will be mentioned for the first of, oh, about a thousand times.

A tout will finally be arrested.

Metropolitan Police say they are clamping down pre-Olympics, at which point they get more powers. They say they hope “persuasion” will work, but if not...

All British players (with the exception of Andy Murray) will be out of the tournament by end of play on Tuesday.

How Murray loses at Wimbledon

2005

LOST 3RD ROUND TO DAVID NALBANDIAN

6-7 1-6 6-0 6-4 6-1

After bridging a gap of 299 places to beat Radek Stepanek, the world No 13, 18-year-old Murray led Nalbandian by two sets on his Centre Court debut before cramp took over.

2006

LOST 4TH ROUND TO MARCOS BAGHDATIS

6-3 6-4 7-6

A masterful straight-sets victory over Andy Roddick was followed by a limp display against Baghdatis. “I played 10 times worse,” Murray said. “I just didn’t feel good”.

2008

LOST QUARTER-FINALS TO RAFAEL NADAL

6-3 6-2 6-4

Having done his Charles Atlas impression by showing his bulging biceps against Richard Gasquet, Murray had sand kicked in his face by the strong man of tennis.

2009

LOST SEMI-FINALS TO ANDY RODDICK

6-4 4-6 7-6 7-6

One hundred years after the birth of Fred Perry a Murray victory would have been a storybook finish, but nobody had shown Roddick the script.

2010

LOST SEMI-FINALS TO RAFAEL NADAL

6-4 7-6 6-4

Much closer than the scoreline suggested, though Nadal’s bludgeoning forehand often proved decisive. “I felt sorry for him because he’s a very nice person,” Nadal said later.

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor