Andy Murray appears typically serious, but the pressure of competing in his home Grand Slam is far from troubling for the 22-time title winner. In fact, with the opportunity to combine competition with some home comforts and familiar routines, Murray considers the local support offered at The Championships a key component to his success.
“I think in all sports playing at home is viewed as being a huge advantage, whereas for some reason when it comes to Wimbledon everyone thinks it's a bad thing. There's more pressure on you and it doesn't help,” he said.
“But I haven’t found it that way. When I've played here, I've enjoyed the challenge, I've enjoyed playing in front of a passionate crowd, and it's helped me.”
Indeed, the three consecutive semi-finals he’s contested in six Wimbledon appearances highlight the Scot’s ability to thrive at the All England Club – and as he enters the 126th Championships, Murray is feeling good about his grass court game, despite an early-round loss to the lower-ranked Nicolas Mahut at Queen’s and a loss to Novak Djokovic in the Boodles warm-up event.
“The match at Queen's is the one I would look at. It was a close match that I lost there. The exhibition matches, the result is completely irrelevant,” Murray noted. “Practice has been good though. I’ve trained well. Each day felt a bit better on the grass. Hopefully [I] feel good on Tuesday.”
Murray is mindful of the difficulties he could face in that opening encounter, the draw handing him a tough first-round opponent in former world No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko. While the 31-year-old Russian has slumped to No. 47 in a patchy season so far, he’s won four of the five matches he’s contested against Murray. With none of those nine encounters occurring on grass, Murray is understandably wary.
“It would be stupid for me to look past Davydenko. Although I'm sure many people will, I won't be making that mistake,” he said.
Beyond Davydenko there’s the prospect of meeting some big-serving opponents in Ivo Karlovic and Milos Raonic and while Murray is known as one of the best returners in tennis, he’s also aware that those potential match-ups require his complete focus.
“It’s always a tough match when you play against big servers,” he said. “I've had a good record against them in the past. It can be quite mentally challenging playing against them because you can't really lose focus on your own serve, even if it's just for a few points. It can be tough to break them. Big servers usually play better when they're ahead, as well.”
Considering the complex early-round challenges, it’s no surprise Murray is reluctant to be drawn into discussions about any frustrations in competing in the era of Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer, despite those top three men sharing victories in 28 of the past 29 majors.
“It’s not something I think about, to be honest. I think I just try and work hard and try and make sure I'm in a position to compete for the big events,” said Murray, a runner-up in the 2008 US Open, and the 2010 and 2011 Australian Opens.
“I've done a good job of putting myself in that position the last couple of years. I've always been there or thereabouts in the slams. I just need to make that final jump.”
Every player targets consistency, but they also make no secret of the fact that it’s the Grand Slams that matter the most. Andy Murray is no exception, and there’d be no place like home for his major breakthrough to occur.
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