The British number one is the top contender to win his second Miami Masters title, since the top seed, Novak Djokovic, was shockingly beaten in the fourth round by the world number 15 – Tommy Haas. This left the door open for Murray to close in on the title after he beat Richard Gasquet 6-7, 6-1, 6-2 in the semi-final.
It’s a very special tournament to him as this is where he usually spends the British winter, training in the American sunshine; piling even more pressure onto him for the final where he faces David Ferrer (the third seed). He says he bases his training here because “when I am in the UK I can sometimes plan to practise and then it rains and courts are booked and you need to move your day around.”
However, as usual with the Brit, the bad news comes with the good, as revealed in a recent article in The Telegraph. It’s not too much to worry about, since for the most part it’s a generic problem for tennis players and sportsman alike. But still this statement is worthy of concern:
“When I am training, I end up picking up a lot of niggles. Then you are having to manage them as well as getting the work done, and then all of a sudden the tournament is round the corner and you want to be going in there feeling 100 per cent.”
One of these mere niggles is what lead to Rafael Nadal being off the tour for seven months. Patellar Tendinitus was caused by accidentally jamming his foot into the court too much, straining muscles in his knee. Things like this leave players “on the endge of injury and illness” as Murray said in that same article. For example, when Nadal seemed to stumble during the early stages of Indian Wells, the entire stadium gasped with horror. Yet, on that occasion he managed not to fall over the metaphorical ‘injury cliff’, and in fact went on to win the tournament, and regain a rankings place he lost while injured.
Another worry for the Scot was the case of Robin Soderling, who Murray regularly fought with over fourth rankings spot for a number of years. But the Swede was diagnosed with glandular fever in 2011, and that lead to an early retirement for the ten 27 year-old.
Over-training is a further danger, and it can be hard to get the balance right, or it can lead to tiredness and weakness – both mentally and physically. “It’s not easy to get the balance right, but one of the advantages of getting older, even though no-one actually wants to, is that you do learn things along the way,” said Murray.
He is most certainly correct in this, and his coach Ivan Llendl has brought a lot of experience to his training regime. Combined with his experience, and Murray’s skill and self-discipline, they make an almost perfect pair. Andy has also become more assertive, as reflected by this: “A lot of times the press guys ask why I take an hour and a half to come to the interview room, but if you don’t do the massage and the ice baths and the stretching and the cooling down and the eating, and your opponent is doing that stuff, they already have an advantage.” Whereas before Mr Llendl came in – he thinks he might have been a bit too quick to go for an interview: “I am way better at all that than I was even two or three years ago.”
He has also improved in the way he handles his emotions during matches since he got a new coach, as his confidence has grown year-on-year, and this makes him seem a much stronger and more formidable opponent to the seemingly emotionless like of Roger Federer. And the days of Viginia Wade infamously calling him a ‘drama queen’ on long gone.
Still, he has only suffered one serious injury during his career, to his wrist in 2007, Djokovic has had a clean sheet so far, but Federer and Nadal are becoming increasingly delicate. Can Murray win Miami for the second time, can he win a second Grand Slam? Only time will tell.