Sweat is on as muscular Murray opens his Wimbledon account
Wednesday 24 June 2009
Beefed up by an extra four kilos of body mass and rendered extra flexible by yoga sessions in a sauna, the 2009 model Andy Murray opened his Wimbledon account yesterday bigger, better and wearing the traditional burden of British hope if not quite with serenity, then certainly with workmanlike vigour.
The British No 1 and world No 3 emerged victorious from an unexpectedly tough opening-round encounter with Robert Kendrick, an American some 73 places below him in the world rankings, amid sweltering conditions on Centre Court. After two hours and 28 minutes, the Scot won 7-5 6-7 6-3 6-4.
The 22-year-old was widely tipped to have the best chance yet of ending the host nation's 73-year absence from the board engraved with the names of Wimbledon men's singles champions, but his difficulties against a swashbuckling opponent were proof of Murray's pre-match insistence that he knew "how difficult it is" to win the All-England Championship.
But amid his followers on Murray Mound, sweating as much because of the 28C heat as their hero's problems with dispatching a player he was expected to beat easily, belief ran strong – if only because victory allowed them to rush back into the cooling shade of the trees on top of the now famous slope.
Peter Swain, 36, a telesales manager who had travelled from Edinburgh to see his compatriot in action, sipped contemplatively on a glass of Pimms before delivering his verdict.
He said: "Andy's in great shape, there's no doubt about that. But I think he's also overcome the whole thing about us, about the British, needing to win Wimbledon like it's our birthright.
"I think with Tim Henman, it was always the triumph of hope over expectation. With Murray, everyone realises that he's the real deal. We're talking about the world No 3 who's disciplined and focused. Maybe we should just all relax a little and enjoy it."
As ever with the man from Dunblane who famously does not do broad grins for the attendant cameras, enjoyment was not particularly discernible as he swapped breaks and sets with Kendrick on Centre Court.
Instead Murray, whose sponsors include the Royal Bank of Scotland (presumably he is the only British civil servant who earns his income dressed in Fred Perry), made it clear he was concentrating on personal success rather than on reversing seven decades of national failure.
The absence of Rafael Nadal, his Spanish nemesis in last year's quarter final, was apparently of little consequence. Asked about the burden of expectation on Murray Mound and beyond, he added: "You can either deal with that stuff or you can't. I don't get caught up in the whole hype thing, reading all the papers, listening to what everyone is saying."
It was unclear whether such sentiments were behind a plea from Murray's representatives for the paparazzi to stay away from his new £5m mansion in Surrey, into which he moved last week. Certainly, Murray's entourage of coaches and consultants have made much of his physical readiness to rack up his first Grand Slam title. He prepared for the 2009 season with a three-week training camp at the University of Miami, consuming 5,800 calories per day – twice the recommended level for an adult male – which he worked off with intense bouts of weightlifting, running, jumping and sessions of Bikram yoga in an energy-sapping 49C.
It was training which would have stood him in good stead in sunny SW19 yesterday during a tournament better known for its rain. On-court temperatures reached 31C, while outside some 90 spectators had to be treated by the St John Ambulance for the effects of the heat.
Side by side: Team Murray
Often described as the ultimate tennis mum, Murray's mother is a former coach for the Scottish national team. She trained Andy until he was 13 and coached his older brother, Jamie. The 49-year-old works for the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).
Nicknamed 'Needles' due to his fondness for acupuncture, Ireland is one of several trainers devoted to Murray's fitness. It was on Ireland's suggestion that Murray has begun taking ice baths after each game to help relax his muscles.
Oversees Murray's nutrition, and thought to be responsible for Murray's 9lb of muscle gain. His diet regime is reported to depend heavily on sushi and protein bars. Born in Britain but now based in Florida, Green answers to the nickname "Jezebel".
Murray's girlfriend since 2006 is the daughter of Nigel Sears, head coach of women's tennis at the LTA. The 21 year-old student is credited with encouraging her boyfriend to smarten up his earlier shaggy-haired, unshaven visage.
Murray went public last year with his devotion for Bikram yoga, practised in severe heat to provoke profuse sweating. Little encouraged him to take it up as a way of improving flexibility. Little oversees his injury prevention and stretching routines.
Works on the psychological aspect of Murray's game. Officially designated as his travelling coach, 33-year-old 'Smiles' organises schedules and practice sessions. He is Murray's chief rival on video games during the player's relaxation time.
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