Calm Andy Murray ready to play: ‘I’m going out there trying to win Wimbledon again’
Andy Murray insists he is ready to defend his Wimbledon title despite his less-than-ideal build-up to the tournament
These have been worrying times for defending Wimbledon champion Andy Murray. Or rather, they have been worrying times for his supporters.
After a remarkable conclusion to 2016, a season during which Murray won the Rome Masters, reached his first Roland Garros final, won his second Wimbledon title and second Olympic gold, and then surged to a first World Tour Finals victory and the No1 ranking, this year took something of a turn.
A weary Murray contracted shingles, picked up an elbow injury, twice lost in the first round of important Masters in Indian Wells and Rome, before seeming to turn a corner in Paris. There, he reached the semis—and very nearly made the final once again.
It was the perfect launch-pad for another great run on grass that would begin with the defence of his Queen’s title. And if there was one venue where Murray felt more at home even than the All England Club, it was the Queen’s Club, where he had won a record five titles already.
Except that it proved not to be the expected launch-pad but a surprise fizzling out in the first round to the world No90, Jordan Thompson.
Murray afterwards admitted:
“Yeah, a big blow, for sure. This tournament has given me great preparation in the past, and when I have done well here, Wimbledon has tended to go pretty well, too.
“There is no guarantee that I won’t do well at Wimbledon, but it certainly would have helped to have had more matches. That’s always been the case for me.”
His plan was to follow his exit with more practice and perhaps an exhibition tournament—and he was optimistic:
“Hopefully I get enough time on the court these next couple of weeks to work on some things, because I’m going to need to. If I play like that, I certainly won’t win Wimbledon, but I can play better than that.”
Then came more worrying times: Scheduled to play two matches at Hurlingham, he withdrew from both with a sore hip. And even after a few days’ rest, Murray carried a noticeable limp during his practice sessions at Wimbledon.
However, come Saturday, practising on one of the Club’s match courts under the watchful gaze of mother Judy and several British journalists, the limp was fading, his movement improving. And confirmation of his fitness to defend his title came at his press conference at midday Sunday:
“I’ll be fine to play the event and play seven matches.”
He went on to admit that his preparation had not been ideal, but that he felt better with every day of practice.
“Obviously this is an extremely important tournament, so you worry a little bit. It’s a little bit stressful if you can’t practise for a few days, you really want to be preparing, training as much as you can, especially when you haven’t had any matches.
“But I just tried to think positively, tried to make the best decisions along with my team to give myself the best chance to feel good on Monday. I feel like I’ve done that… Each day I’ve felt better.”
It will be music to his fans’ ears, and no doubt to his home tournament, as will the news that the 30-year-old feels less pressure these days to live up to British expectations, and less nervous at being the first person to walk onto Centre Court, as is the tradition at Wimbledon.
“Once you get out there, I don’t feel like I’m trying to defend something. I’m going out there trying to win Wimbledon again. I want to try to win the competition, you know.
“It adds a little bit extra pressure… that you’re the first one out there on Centre Court. You feel like you’re opening up the tournament a little bit, and that adds a few more nerves. But I feel OK, I’ve felt fairly calm the last few days, considering how I’ve been feeling.”
There was good news, too, on the personal front. Murray announced today that he and wife Kim are expecting their second child. Their first, Sophia, was born just after last year’s Australian Open—a lovely prelude and also an inspiration for the dominant season that followed.
And Murray relishes the chance to live at home during this grass stretch, a luxury that players on the professional trans-global tour seldom have the chance to do.
“I want to be nervous. I want to feel the pressure at these events, but the nice thing about it is at the end of the days. When I leave the courts, I can get away from it a little bit more than at some of the other tournaments just because I’m at home with my family in my own house. That’s nice.”
Murray opens his defence tomorrow at 1pm precisely, when he will take on lucky loser Alexander Bublik, ranked 134 but one of the rising names on the tour. Just turned 20, and standing 6ft4in, the extrovert Bublik is at No13 in the #NextGen ATP Race to Milan, and he began the year by playing and winning his first ever Major match in Australia, beating world No15 Lucas Pouille.
The Russian who plays for Kazakhstan is not a man to be taken lightly, but all in all, he should provide a useful early test for Murray, who described his young opponent thus:
“From what I’ve heard, he’s pretty entertaining on the court in terms of the way he plays, how he is. You know, quite unorthodox. He plays a lot of unexpected shots, a lot of drop-shots, mixes his game up a lot, takes chances, tries some shots that guys may play in exhibitions—that’s what I’ve heard.”
Thereafter, Murray can expect to face Fabio Fognini, and either Pouille or Nick Kyrgios. As every one of the top players here will tell you ad infinitum, there are no easy matches in the Majors.