Wimbledon 2014: Andy Murray in happy place as he prepares to begin defence of his crown


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Andy Murray’s body always tells him when Wimbledon is around the corner. “I just happen to get mouth ulcers at this time of year,” the Scot said as he looked ahead to beginning the defence of his All England Club title on Monday. “I had them last week. I’ve still got one of them, though the last few days I’ve felt fine. It might not be anything to do with nerves or stress. I don’t know.”

If Murray is feeling stressed he is doing a good job of concealing it. The 27-year-old Scot practised here yesterday, posed happily for photographs and said he had not even looked at the draw, which handed him a first-round meeting with Belgium’s David Goffin.

“I’ve got a couple more days of training, which will be lower intensity, so that I am relaxed, focused and ready for Monday,” he said. “I feel calm right now. Most people are asking me what it is going to feel like coming back as defending champion. I am more concerned about the event this year and trying to win it again.

“Having won last year, having had that experience, understanding how to win, that can only help – also the way the [final] finished, the pressure and the nerves that I dealt with in that match and coming back from two sets to love down against [Fernando] Verdasco. I experienced a lot of things last year that can only help me this year.”

The arrival of Amélie Mauresmo in the world  No 5’s entourage seems to have lightened his mood. The Frenchwoman will coach him on a trial basis until the end of Wimbledon, after which both sides will review the situation. They have had only 10 days together so far, Mauresmo having started work at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club last week.

“It obviously wasn’t the perfect place to start,” Murray said. “Every time we were on the practice court and she stood anywhere near me there was the click of a hundred cameras. It’s normal to be a bit uptight in those circumstances, especially as we didn’t know each other that well at that stage.

“But since then we have managed to get away from everything and spend some time together on court and I had dinner with her on Wednesday night. She has fitted into the team very well and very quickly.

“It’s a tough period of the year to start something, so I suppose the thing that has surprised me is that she has fitted in very quickly. I’ve enjoyed the last few days. I’ve had fun on the court.”

Murray said he would not judge the success of his new coaching arrangement by his results here. “As a coach you can’t change anything in five or six days,” he said. “It’s silly to suggest anything otherwise. But what I can sense is whether I feel like things we are working on in practice are the right things, whether I feel like we are able to communicate well about tactics, the way we talk after a match, how she looks into matches. That is how I will judge things. I could lose in the first round at Wimbledon and it certainly wouldn’t be her fault.”

The Scot’s only previous experience of defending a Grand Slam title was not a happy one. Last summer’s US Open, which was his last tournament before he had back surgery, ended in a quarter-final defeat to Stanislas Wawrinka.

“At the time I was struggling a bit for motivation,” Murray said. “I was struggling with my back as well at the time so I didn’t enjoy the week’s build-up that much. It wasn’t that much fun being on the court.

“People were saying to me that whatever happens now doesn’t matter. They said it was normal if I was struggling for motivation and were questioning whether tennis was ever going to be the same for me again. I started thinking that way a bit.

“That was part of it, but there was also the physical stuff as well. I was thinking that my back was bad and wondering what I was going to do about it. I didn’t know if it was ever going to be perfect again or if it was going to be bad for ever. When I decided to have the surgery, that was it. I moved on. The motivation has been there ever since then.”

He added: “Defending Wimbledon is going to be different. I have defended titles before at smaller events obviously, but I think people make more of it than the players do. I know when I walk out on to the court it’s going to be different initially, but once I’m two games into the match I won’t be thinking about last year at all. I’ll be thinking about this year’s event.”

Although Murray said he had not looked at the draw, it would make pleasant reading. In theory he could eventually have to beat the world’s best two players, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, to retain his title, but the first three rounds do not appear too challenging. Kevin Anderson, a big-serving South African, and Grigor Dimitrov, last weekend’s champion at Queen’s, are potential opponents in the fourth round and quarter-finals respectively, though the seedings suggest Murray will face Fabio Fognini and David Ferrer.

Goffin said the prospect of making his Centre Court debut against Murray on Monday was “a dream”, while the Belgian’s coach, Thierry van Cleemput, looked to events in Brazil for inspiration. “There have been some surprise results in the World Cup and we have to hope that David can produce one for himself,” he said.

Murray’s possible route to the final

  1. First round David Goffin  (Belgium, aged 23, world No 104)
  2. Second round Pablo Andujar (Spain, 28, 79)
  3. Third round Roberto Bautista Agut (Spain, 26, 28)
  4. Fourth round Fabio Fognini (Italy, 27, 15)
  5. Quarter-final David Ferrer (Spain, 32, 7)
  6. Semi-final Novak Djokovic (Serbia, 27, 2)
  7. Final Rafael Nadal (Spain, 28, 1)