Not so long ago, Andy Murray wondered whether he could even take part in this week’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, given that he would have to switch immediately afterwards from a hard court in London to playing on a clay court in Ghent for Britain’s Davis Cup final against Belgium.
Changing to clay courts has given the Scot physical problems in the past and contributed to his need for back surgery two years ago. However, having spent four days practising on clay at Queen’s Club last week in preparation for the Davis Cup final, which starts in 12 days, Murray is so pleased with how his back has coped that he is not ruling out victory at the O2 Arena this week.
“It was good, better than what I expected,” Murray said. “[There were] none of the issues I had a couple of years ago.”
One of the reasons for optimism is the work Murray has done with Teresina Goheen, a bodywork instructor who specialises in Gyrotonic training, which combines movements from pilates, yoga and dance, and is designed to improve mobility and flexibility in the back.
Goheen helped Murray in Barcelona in the spring, when he was preparing for the clay-court season, and also flew from the United States to help him this month. “I did a session every day, which helps with my movement and flexibility,” Murray said.
The Scot, who did not start practising on hard courts again until two days ago, needs two round-robin victories this week – he is in a group with Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer – to guarantee that he will finish the year as world No 2. Nevertheless, the only way he could be overtaken in the rankings would be if Roger Federer won the title.
“My ambition is to win the tournament but I have to be realistic about how well I will start the event,” Murray said. “It’s impossible to prepare for both [the World Tour Finals and the Davis Cup] – or it is for me.
“For some guys, they can rock up on a clay court and immediately feel great. I will go out there and give it my best in all of the matches. That’s all anyone can ask for. You can’t always play your best tennis, but I will definitely give my best effort in all of the matches.”
One source of motivation for Murray will be the chance to erase the memory of his last match at the O2 Arena 12 months ago, when he was crushed 6-0 6-1 in just 56 minutes by Federer. “It was a terrible way for me to finish the year and I don’t want that to be the case again,” he said.
Murray insisted that the Davis Cup final, which is his big end-of-year priority, would not distract him from his task this week. “If I was thinking ahead about the Davis Cup, to show up and then get pumped three times while getting ready for Ghent is terrible preparation,” he said.
“I want to perform well, winning big matches against the best players in the world. That will give me confidence for the Davis Cup as well.”
Murray said it would not be a case of trying to forget the Davis Cup this week. “It is in my mind because I am using it as a positive,” he said. “Playing matches against the world’s best players is better than practising against anybody. Getting these matches and hopefully winning some would be the best preparation. I’m not saying the Davis Cup is not in my mind this week. The Davis Cup is fuelling me for this week.”
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