Murray's mum plans for the big step-up

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The Independent Online

The road to success seems to be opening smoothly for Andy Murray. On Friday, following his second-round Wimbledon victory over Radek Stepanek, the 18-year-old Scot was offered wild cards into tournaments next month in Gstaad and Newport, Rhode Island. Being assiduous in such matters, Murray had also worked out that, before going on court yesterday against David Nalbandian, his world ranking had risen from 320 to 210, permitting him easier entry into lower-level events such as Challengers.

Murray's mother, Judy, the former national Scottish coach, has been at his side through what she called "this amazing time," adding: "The thing that has surprised me is how cool he has been about everything. He has been exactly the same as he normally is. He likes to lie in listening to his loud music, has his breakfast, reads a paper or two, watches telly and then goes off to the tennis."

Judy Murray paid tribute to the team who have helped her: "Mark Petchey, who is helping with his coaching, Lisa Eyre, the former Olympic rower who is in charge of his fitness programme and is also helping to rehab his injured ankle, and Jean-Pierre Bruyere, the Lawn Tennis Association physio who has been managing his rehab as well. We are a protective cordon in a way.

"For me it has been great because Andy is very comfortable with all those people around him. So I am not having to be around all the time, just making sure everything is right at home and keeping him as normal as possible."

She confirmed that she shared many people's surprise at her son's rate of progress. "I have always had great belief in his ability, but if you'd looked at what he did in the first five months of this year, one or two good wins on the Challenger circuit but not having played that many matches, he was probably struggling a bit with confidence in the run-up to the French Open juniors [where he lost in the semi-finals].

"He had been travelling with a coach [Pato Alvarez] he was not getting along with, and that was demotivating him and making it tough for him. This is why it is important now he has people around him who he is confident with and can have fun with while they are working professionally to get him as ready as we can.

"We haven't made any decision about a full-time coach. Clearly Andy and Mark get on well on and off court. If you listen to them talking, they are on the same wavelength, and if we can make that work that would be Andy's choice. But we are very aware that Mark has a commitment to his job at the LTA and to his television commentating.

"What Andy needs now is somebody to be around him most of the time, which is a huge commitment, with a lot of travelling and a lot of time away from home. It is a question of sitting down and talking through whether we can make it work with Mark."

Judy said she would prefer if her son remained based overseas. "We are not sure whether he will stay in Barcelona, but the Sanchez Academy has been very good for him and he has loved Barcelona. Andy's preference would be to remain there, with the coach of his choice travelling with him for a certain number of weeks a year.

"For the next one to two years it is important to work hard physically. If he is going to be able to produce his recent form and live with these big boys on a daily basis he will have to strengthen his upper and lower body. So we are going to have to look at a part-time fitness trainer and part-time physio. The whole thing will be tough to put together, as well as expensive."

Judy was adamant that she is about to step back from her previous commitments. "If I can help to put a good team around him and guarantee whatever needs to be guaranteed, then I will be perfectly happy. I am well aware that I have reached my shelf life with him. Naturally I want to help as much as I can, but I have no wish to be travelling the circuit every week."

She said the present plan was to accept the wild card offered by the grass-court tournament in Rhode Island, an event twice won by Greg Rusedski, but probably to pass up on Gstaad, which is on clay. Murray would then stay in the United States for the run-up to the US Open but has not yet decided whether he intends to defend the junior title he won there last September. "Now his ranking has gone up it will get him into the main draws of Challengers," Judy said. "Until now he was having to qualify, and wasn't even getting into the qualifying of some. Every-thing changes when you put together a good run."

Meanwhile, Tony Pickard, the man who coached Stefan Edberg to two Wimbledon titles, has called for a reality check and dismissed talk of a "changing of the guard" after Tim Henman's early exit from The Championships.

Pickard, a former British Davis Cup player and captain, said: "I don't think we have got to that stage yet. Just because Tim has lost in the second round doesn't mean he is finished as a top player. He is still going to be in the world's top 20, and Andy has a long way to go to be anywhere near that ranking. Nor do we know if he will ever get that high."

Pickard was advising Step-anek, beaten by Murray in straight sets, in the arts of grass-court tennis at the request of Stepanek's part-time coach, Petr Korda, so he had a close-up view of Murray's finest moment. "OK, it's fabulous that suddenly someone from Britain has appeared who can win, but he is winning at a level to which he has basically had a bypass.

"In two or three weeks' time he has to go back with his peers, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that what he has picked up here he takes back down with him to the lower levels of the game, where he has to learn his trade. That's what Rafael Nadal did, winning five or six Challenger titles in a row once he had started to win on the senior Tour, and then he was off and running. We have to hope that happens to Murray, and until it does let's keep everything in perspective."

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