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'It crosses my mind every day': Marray returns to SW19

Jonny Marray returns to Centre Court
by Alexandra Willis
Tuesday 25 September 2012

In the aftermath of the British summer of spectacular sporting success, the Olympic golds, silvers and bronzes, the Paralympic golds, silvers and bronzes, and Andy Murray's US Open victory, it's almost all too easy to forget that another Briton's dream came true at Wimbledon in July. Murray may have been in tears after his Wimbledon final, but Jonathan Marray woke up the morning after his Wimbledon final hardly able to believe the silver trophy sitting at the end of his bed. 

31-year-old Marray brought Wimbledon the movie to life on Centre Court as he and fellow wild card Frederik Nielsen, representing Denmark, won five-setter after five-setter, including an upset of the fearsome Bryan brothers to become the first Briton to lift the men's doubles trophy at SW19 since 1936. 

"You wake up and know you’ve won Wimbledon this year," Marray says, his grin still as wide as it was in July as he makes his first visit back to the All England Club since the epic Saturday final. "It crosses my mind every day, definitely. Especially coming out to Centre Court, it re-jigs the memory a little bit, puts a smile on your face."

Perhaps not the memory of his and Nielsen's emphatic one, two, three jump celebration, which Marray describes now as "a bit embarrassing," but of having achieved the one thing he always set out to do. 

"When I started playing tennis, my dream was to play at Wimbledon, then it was Centre Court, and the far-fetched one was to win Wimbledon. It’s what I dreamed about," Marray says.

One might wonder, thinking aloud, having achieved his dream, what there is to motivate him now. "But there’s plenty more things to achieve in tennis, the four Grand Slams, the O2, to be part of that," he interjects quickly. "It’s just back to the day job. There’s always the next tournament, the next week, the next year. It doesn’t wait for anyone, you’ve got to keep going and keep trying to achieve things." 

Belief is the watch word in British tennis at the moment, Andy Murray's Grand Slam breakthrough, Laura Robson's Guangzhou final, and Heather Watson's almost-but-not quite upset of Maria Sharapova in Tokyo a case in point. And Marray reveals that that's been the biggest takeaway from his Wimbledon win. Not the £130,000 in prize money, although it will help, not potential sponsorship, although it will safeguard his future, not fan mail and autograph requests, although they make him smile. Instead, especially for a player who would readily admit to having been embarrassed at his lack of success, winning Wimbledon has given him greater belief in his own ability. 

"I’m a bit more relaxed now about my whole tennis and my career knowing that I’ve achieved what I really wanted to achieve," he says. "The fact that we won Wimbledon doesn’t mean that we’re always going to be in the last stages of the Slams. But I go to those tournaments now thinking I could do better than I had done previously."

Marray and Nielsen's return to competitive action together at the US Open didn't exactly go off with the fanfare they had hoped, the more unforgiving hard courts not necessarily suiting the serve and volley tennis they played so well at Wimbledon. But Marray has already brushed it off and is onto the next thing. 

"Whenever you lose in any tournament there’s disappointment, everyone has to deal with that in whatever sport you’re involved in, tennis especially," he says. "You’re playing 30 weeks of the year, you’re not going to win 30 weeks of the year, you just to deal with it, move on and try and do the best you can in the next one."

Where next for the duo is not as straightforward an answer as you might think, Nielsen's singles commitments meaning they can't commit to play doubles together week in, week out. 

"I’d like to play with Freddie as much as we can, we played great together, get on really well, he’s a great doubles player," Marray said. "But obviously he’s got other priorities at the minute, singles, so when he’s free to play, when his schedule allows, then we’ll play together.

"Other than that,  I just have to find someone to play with me." 

Which might seem slightly strange for a Grand Slam champion. But it doesn't seem to bother Marray. 

The big goal for the duo is to reach the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena, which is arguably as big a stage for the doubles players as the Grand Slams. Because Marray is passionate about doubles, and hopes, far-fetched as it may seem, that his and Nielsen's pinch-me-I'm-dreaming win will do something for doubles in this country, too.

"Doubles doesn’t always get a massive showing, it’s not televised as much, a lot of tournaments are trying to get rid of doubles, but at the end of the day, most clubs round the country, people participate more in doubles than singles," Marray says. "I’m sure a lot of people saw our win, especially seeing the underdogs, the guys who are wild cards who never really thought they had a shot at winning it to go all the way. If I was watching it it probably would have inspired me to do something, so I hope it has done. We’ll just have to wait and see I suppose." 

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