US Open: Andy Murray 'uneasy' about first time as defending champion


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The Independent Online

With each passing year there are fewer new emotions for Andy Murray to experience, but for the last week the 26-year-old Scot has been discovering what it is like to be a defending Grand Slam champion.

Despite the extra demands on his time, Murray has been enjoying the build-up to the US Open, where he won his maiden Grand Slam title last year and where battle will commence again tomorrow.

"Last year I was so relieved at the end [of the tournament] that I don't feel like I really enjoyed it as much as I should have done," Murray said here last week. "It was a bit more enjoyable coming back and being on the court and actually remembering that I had won the tournament. It was frantic last year and I wasn't really thinking enough to enjoy that, so coming back here was really nice.

"It was the same thing at Wimbledon. I went back there six or seven days afterwards and I was just there on the court by myself and actually getting to enjoy that moment, because when everyone is looking at you and the cameras are on it is very difficult. You enjoy it, but it isn't the same. I felt like I remembered more about what was going on when I actually went back to the court when there is no one there."

One place he has yet to revisit is the bathroom just off court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, to which he retreated after Novak Djokovic levelled last year's final at two sets apiece; Murray looked at himself in the mirror, telling himself that he would not let his opportunity slip. "No I haven't been there yet," Murray smiled. "If I'm a couple of sets down I may head in there."

The last 15 months, during which time Murray has won two Grand Slams, finished runner-up in two others and won Olympic gold, have strengthened the world No 3's self-belief. "I probably feel more confident but I think that when the tournament rolls around I will be very nervous," he said. "I would expect to be because it is a new experience. I have never come into a Slam as defending champion, so it's different. When you haven't experienced something before it makes you feel a bit uneasy or uncertain."

Murray has had a busy time since arriving here nine days ago, his daily routine interrupted by television interviews and appearances at events like the draw ceremony and a children's coaching clinic.

"You need to make sure you are very well organised," he said. "Getting in and out of the city is obviously pretty busy, so you need to make sure that the time you have during the day you are using properly and not using up too much energy. There is even less going around the city or out in the evenings. It's just a case of getting your stuff done and all the extra bits and pieces you need to do."

Murray is joined in the main draw by Dan Evans, the British No 3, who has qualified to play in a Grand Slam other than Wimbledon for the first time. The 23-year-old from Birmingham, who before last week had won only two Grand Slam qualifying matches in his career, beat Spain's Adrian Menendez-Maceira 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the third and final round of qualifying on Friday and now faces Japan's Kei Nishikori, the world No 12.

Evans's career has looked up since he helped Britain beat Russia in the Davis Cup earlier this year. The world No 179, who recently broke into the top 200 for the first time and is four places behind compatriot James Ward, reached two straight Challenger finals this summer.

"I'm pretty proud of my efforts," Evans said. "Not just here. I've been here nearly six weeks, so to lose first round and then make final, final and qualify is pretty good."

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