Andy Murray unwinds in London – but not for long, as 2016 beckons

Andy Murray has been unwinding back home this week after a thrilling conclusion to the 2015 season

Andy Murray has not been up to much since his gut-busting efforts in leading Great Britain to its first Davis Cup victory in almost 80 years.

After winning three back-to-back matches in Ghent, spending hours interacting the British fans, doing press duties and his last blog for the BBC, and finally taking the LTA to task over its failure to cultivate new tennis talent, he flew back to the UK on Monday afternoon. Now it was party time with the team in London.

I literally slept most of Tuesday and Wednesday during the day

Andy Murray

Tuesday, well there were assorted commitments, such as popping into 10 Downing Street for a reception with the Prime Minister, and finding himself favourite among the nominees for Sports Personality of the Year.

Among dozens of tweets, there was one by his terrier Maggie May pictured with Murray’s miniature trophy: “It’s for holding biscuits, right?”

For the man who has played and won more matches in 2015 than anyone except world No1 Novak Djokovic, had flown from a semi run in Shanghai to a final run in Paris to a week at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, while stopping off here and there for a bit of clay practice in readiness for the Davis Cup final, did have a home to go to—one with dogs and a wife who is expecting their first child.

So by Saturday afternoon, he was ready to admit to a bit of tiredness: “It’s been a nice week. We didn’t get back until Monday afternoon, and then Monday night we all went out for dinner. You know, [Davis Cup] does take a lot out of you—for the first hour and a half everyone was on great form, but they started to get tired pretty quick!

“Then on Tuesday we had some commitments. Obviously went to Downing Street and stuff, and then literally I slept most of Tuesday, Wednesday during the day, just really tired on the sofa, not doing a whole lot… I haven’t done much more than that.”

He added, with a grin, “[Except] swing a racket around at home when I’m bored.”

By the end of the week, though, Murray was spending much of Saturday at the Royal Albert Hall in an experimental short-form tennis event, Tie Break Tens. It offered the chance to swing his racket for the first time in one of London’s most iconic venues, but also one more end-of-season shot at raising money for his #AndysAces project with Unicef. For every ace he has served since the US Open this year, he has donated £50 to the charity for whom he is an ambassador.

“Having seen the images broadcast on the news in recent weeks I felt I had to do something to help the millions of children and their families who have been forced to flee their homes and had their lives turned upside down.”

He announced courtside that he was close to his £50,000 target courtesy of equivalent donations from his sponsors, the LTA and ATP, combined with the aces served by all the players in the Tie Break Tens event. He also has one more chance to top his target when he invigorates his forthcoming training block in Dubai with some lively sets in the IPTL league for home team Singapore Slammers.

After such an intense season, it surprised some that Murray would step into the breach left by Djokovic’s withdrawal. As John McEnroe said in London: “I mean he’s had an extremely long year, so he’s going to need a break.”

But Murray explained it thus. “I got asked to play six, seven months ago, and I said I’m not committing to that, with potentially the Davis Cup [final]. I needed to take a break at the end of the season because it’s a long year for me. [But] I was planning to do my off-season training in Dubai, and I said if there are any matches in Dubai once I’m there training, then I could do it.

“So three or four weeks ago I was asked again if I wanted to play a couple of matches while I was there, and I said yeah. It’s obviously good to play practice sets, I’m living on the site where they’re playing the event and it makes sense.”

The first big challenge of 2016, after Murray plays the warm-up event in Perth’s Hopman Cup, is the Australian Open. The Briton has always hit the ground running on Melbourne’s hot courts, has not fallen short of the quarters since 2009, and made the finals four times, losing to Roger Federer in 2010 and subsequently three times to Djokovic. Now ranked at No2, the good news for Murray is that he cannot meet Djokovic before the finals, for the Serb has proved to be a thorn in the Briton’s side as much as anyone’s. Seven times they met in 2015, six times Djokovic won, including Australia, and Murray did not beat him at all in 2014.

But Djokovic famously rode a wave of self-belief after leading Serbia to its first Davis Cup victory by putting together one of the best-ever tennis seasons in 2011, and he has not looked back. Could Murray do the same? McEnroe was encouraging: “I think it’s four Australian Open finals [for Murray], so to me he could potentially use that to his advantage, could be something that could help him get over the hump, because he may be a little sharper than normal, even though he’s had great results there… But then obviously Novak’s gonna say, ‘Haha, I got a little rest,’ so it’s mentally how you deal with it when it comes to that moment if they play again.”

Murray, though, has other events to focus his mind in the coming season. Looking beyond Melbourne, he has committed to cutting his schedule to be at home with wife Kim for the birth of their child.

“I’m not playing the whole of February. Obviously just now, I’ve taken five days’ break. I’ll get another short break over Christmas time, then the whole of February for sure, and maybe post-Miami [before the clay season].

“So for the first five months of the year, they would be the two periods where I would get enough time to recover and rest and also train and build myself back up for the hard-court swing over in the States and the Davis Cup in March, and then the clay season.

“But you have to play it a bit by ear because you don’t know how you’re going to play all of the time. I mean the best scenario is you’re winning every week and getting to the latter stages, but that isn’t always the case, and you have to be flexible during the year, but that’s my current thinking.”

It is not just the Davis Cup victory that may inspire Murray, though. Since the birth of his son in October 2014, Djokovic has gone 92-6 to garner 13 titles, and has not fallen short of a final since last year’s Australian Open win.

Federer welcomed his first twins in July 2009 after winning Madrid, Roland Garros and Wimbledon back-to-back, then won Cincinnati and reached the final of the US Open. After the clay-season birth of his second twins in 2014, he went 42-4 through the rest of the year to claim three titles.

So who knows what fatherhood may bring to the mix for Murray in 2016?

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