ATP World Tour Finals 2011: Andy Murray ready for finale
British No1 Andy Murray goes into the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals on the back of some fine form
Since the US Open, itâ€™s been quite a few months for Andy Murray. He won three back-to-back titles, overtook Roger Federer for the first time in his career, and has lost only one matchâ€”a peach of contest against the big and powerful Tomas Berdych in Paris.
That is the only cloud on an otherwise clear horizon, for it means that Berdych has beaten the home favourite in their last three matches. He also happens to be in the Murray section of the Round Robin at the World Tour Finals, tennisâ€™s biggest and most prestigious indoor tournament.
With the player of the year, Novak Djokovic, also in his group, Murray knows he has his work cut out. â€œObviously Berdych played very, very well in Paris and Novak has had the year that heâ€™s had even though heâ€™s had some problems in the last few weeks. So itâ€™s going to be toughâ€”a lot of long points, long matches probably.â€
Murrayâ€™s first match, though, is against David Ferrer, a man he has beaten twice in the last monthâ€”most impressively in the final of the Shanghai Masters.
He does not underestimate the Ferrer challenge, however. After all, the Spaniard is enjoying one of his finest seasons in almost four years, has continued to evolve his hard-court game and is more than capable of going on the attack in London.
â€œIâ€™ve matched up well against him on the hard courts but heâ€™s also made the World Tour Finals indoors on hard courts before. Iâ€™ve played well against him in the past but thatâ€™s because Iâ€™ve needed to.â€
Ferrer is, of course, renowned for his blood, sweat and tears efforts on and off court, but in Murray, he meets his match. The Scot could be enjoying the rare treat of living at home during this tournament but has forsaken that luxury to set up in the playersâ€™ hotel in order to keep his commute as short as possible.
He has been practising this week on the specially-prepared hard courts at Queenâ€™s Club with the rest of the final eight and also took the opportunity to hit with doubles specialists Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. So how does he feel?
â€œI feel good. I had a few niggles after Paris, had to take it easy for a few days. But started playing points today and I felt good.â€
Looking at the trajectory of the Murray year since New York, however, it may surprise many that he dates his new-found confidence back to the French Openâ€”and for watchers of the Scot, there has indeed been something of a transformation in the Murray body-language and mind-set in the last few months.
â€œAt the French Open I started to get back on the right track and was understanding how I needed to play to win and what I needed to work on,” he said.
â€œIt is never one thing in particular that makes you have a great run. It is confidence. It is such a mental game, tennis.
“So long as you are working hard doing all the right stuff on the practice court and in the gym, you just have to get that confidence together so you feel you can beat anyone.â€
That confident approach could well be the key to who succeeds at this unique event where every player has to fire on all cylinders from the word go.
â€œItâ€™s the mentality of having to be right on your game and making sure from the first match that youâ€™re switched on. Thatâ€™s it. Sometimes, you can scrape your way through a match or two and then work your way into the tournament. Here you have to play your bestâ€”itâ€™s as simple as that.â€
Regardless of the outcome in London this weekâ€”and Murray is being touted as a strong contender to win here for the first timeâ€”he is already looking ahead to that most important of targets: his first Grand Slam. So just as last year, there will be no Christmas at home for Murray.
â€œIâ€™ll go over to Miami around the 10th or 12th of December and start training. Iâ€™ll spend Christmas over there and go straight to Australia.â€
Amid all this frenetic activity, Murray and his World Tour Finals colleagues have been doing the press stuff, the PR stuff and the fund-raising stuff. Murray begins to assume those public demands with the relaxed and diplomatic air of a man at ease with the burden of the tennis expectations he has carried for so long.
In a rather less heralded moment, at the glitzy gala in London that raised more than Â£400,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital Childrenâ€™s Charity this week, Murray made an additional gestureâ€”a vital piece of equipment costing more than Â£18,500 for the Hospitalâ€™s cardiac intensive care unit.
Heâ€™s a man of substanceâ€”with or without a Grand Slam.
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