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Men's semi-final preview: discovering Andy Murray

Andy Murray celebrates after defeating David Ferrer and advancing to the semi-finals.
by Matt Trollope
Friday 6 July 2012

Andy Murray is the most talked about human being in the United Kingdom during the Wimbledon fortnight. The focus of intense media scrutiny and public adoration, his every movement, shot, reaction and word is monitored and reported on as he undertakes his annual quest to end the ever-lengthening drought that characterises the wait for a home-grown Wimbledon champion.

Therefore, most people know all they think there is to know about the 25-year-old from Dunblane, Scotland, as he prepares to tackle Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in his first ever final at the All England Club. But there are still some surprises to be had when it comes to the world No.4 – here are 10 figures, factoids and anecdotes that you may not have known about Britain’s favourite son.

Semi-final sadness: We’ll get the rough stuff out of the way first. Murray hopes to avoid becoming only the second male player in the Open Era to lose his first four Wimbledon semi-finals. The first? Another Brit. Tim Henman lost his first and only four semi-finals at SW19 in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002.

Re-writing records: Unlike Henman, Murray’s four Wimbledon semi-final appearances have come in consecutive years. The last British player to achieve that feat came way in 1905-1908, in the form of Arthur Gore. Murray’s four straight semis from 2009-2012 make him the most successful British player at Wimbledon in the Open Era.

Bursting the bubble: To deal with the suffocating pressure he faces during The Championships, Murray talks about entering a mental “bubble”. But that doesn’t mean he’s always completely focused on the task at hand. Playing in the presence of Royalty – and some tennis royalty to boot – Murray said: “Obviously when I saw Roger [Federer] playing I saw them sitting in the Royal Box. I think it's always going to make a difference when you have royalty in there. For me, also playing in front of someone like [Andre] Agassi as well and Steffi Graf. Rod Laver was there, too. It was an unbelievable privilege to play in front of those people.”

LeBron link: A big fan of NBA basketball, Murray was asked to name a sporting figure who possibly shares the same burden of expectation – and often criticism – that he faces. He nominated Miami Heat’s LeBron James. “I've been close [to winning Wimbledon] a lot of times and not quite made it. You know, just have to keep putting myself in the position, and hopefully it will click,” he said. “There's a lot of people that said [James] would never win [Miami Heat won the most recent NBA Championship]. There's a lot of people who said he never played his best in finals. In the fourth quarter of games he never steps up. Then you see how he played the whole of the Finals, the whole of the Playoffs [James was named Finals MVP] Sometimes it takes guys a bit longer than others.”

Olympic spirit: Basketball is not the only sport that Murray loves. As one of 36 tennis players featured in the ITF’s Olympic Book ahead of the 2012 London Games, Murry said his Olympic hero was American track athlete Michael Johnson and described the Olympics as far and away the biggest sporting event on Earth.

Warming up to Wimbledon: Rather startlingly, Murray revealed that his appreciation for Wimbledon has taken a long time to develop. “When I first played here I didn't understand what it was like, and it still took a few years for me before I understood how important this tournament was to me, how important it is to tennis, and also this country, as well,” he admitted.

In the annals: Murray’s own role in adding to the significance and history of The Championships was apparent in the third round. His match against Marcos Baghdatis finished at 11.02pm on Saturday under a closed roof, the latest ever finish at Wimbledon.

Concerned son: Often labelled as negative and sour, Murray showed a softer side in his press conference when asked about coach and mother Judy Murray’s appearance in the Royal Box. “I saw my mum beforehand. I don't normally see her at the tracks, so I think she's a little bit nervous about the outfit. I thought she looked nice. She's very slim right now. My whole family has been telling her she needs to put some weight on. I'll talk to her about that.”

Looking up: With his win over world No.5 David Ferrer in the quarter-finals, Murray reversed a rather unfortunate trend, having lost six straight matches to top 10 opponents at Grand Slams. Back in the winner’s circle, it bodes well ahead of his final-four clash with sixth-ranked Tsonga.

French foil: In a more obscure yet more encouraging statistic, Murray is currently enjoying a 14-match winning streak against Frenchmen at Grand Slams. The last time he lost to a Frenchman at a major was at the 2008 Australian Open when he was defeated in the first round by – interestingly – Tsonga.

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