As the grass court season begins, Andy Murray knows that his life is not his own. For the coming weeks, he will be watched, filmed, photographed and analysed as a desperate nation hopes and waits for a fellow Brit to follow in Fred Perry’s footsteps and win the men’s title at Wimbledon.
So, what does our local hero look forward to as he puts the finishing touches to his preparations? The white heat of Centre Court competition? The roar of the crowd and the smell of the grass? Er, no. He is looking forward to spending two months sleeping in his own bed. Don’t knock it – no matter how rich and famous you are, if you live out of a suitcase, being at home is bliss.
“One part of the grass season which is nice is that I get to spend an extended time at home,” he said, happily. “And this year, with it being the Olympics, I will be there for the next couple of months.”
But never think that Murray is taking it easy (he is not a pipe-and-slippers sort of bloke); this frantic few weeks on the green stuff is one his favourite times of year – and his most profitable. His stint at home did not start too well – he lost in his opening match at the AEGON Championships – but he was not unduly concerned. A few practise sets, an exhibition match or two and he knows that he will be will right as rain.
“It’s just different,” Scotland’s finest explained. “It’s such a short season. In some ways the rest of the season can get boring in away. Grass is so different. It’s nice for me, anyway. My body doesn’t hurt. For me there’s less stress on the body than on the hard courts. And it’s a different style of tennis, a different mentality you go on the court with. I like it.”
Popular wisdom has it that Murray, like Henman and Rusedski before him, walks on court burdened by the weight of national expectation but nothing could be further from the truth. Murray loves the support he gets during Wimbledon but the pressure he feels comes from within. He wants to win and having reached three Grand Slam finals (and no one has done that since Perry himself), he knows he has the potential to win. Now he just has to work out how to claim one of the major titles in one of the strongest eras in the history of men’s tennis. And now that he is 25, his critics are tapping their watches and claiming that time is running out for Murray.
“Just because Federer won a Grand Slam when he was 21, it shouldn’t affect whether I can win one when I am 29,” he said. “I just think it depends on the mindset that you have. If you decide, oh, I can’t do it now that I am past 24 or 25, whatever, then, yeah, it’s not going to happen. Providing you believe you can, then maybe you will. There’s no set time limit on it. Lendl won his first Slam when he was 24 and went on to win eight.”
Ah, yes: Mr Lendl. The stone-faced former world No.1 has been Murray’s coach since January and as the summer revs up for a fraught four months of Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open, Lendl will be at Murray’s side every step of the way. He may not look particularly warm and fluffy and, at first glance, he might not seem like the life and soul of the party, but Murray thinks he is the perfect match and an excellent coach.
“He’s a fun guy,” Murray said to a disbelieving audience. “He’s very easy to get on with because we have quite a lot of things in common: both of us like sports, we don’t like any fuss, really, which is important. And then we just go on the court, do our work and have a chat about it afterwards a little bit. Then he goes off in his direction and I go off in the other.”
For Murray, that means going back to his mansion in Surrey. The day job may have its ups and downs but it is always nice to come home.