With the new tennis season less than three weeks away, Andy Murray has swapped his usual training base in Miami with the courts at the Aviation Club in Dubai, where he’s been preparing for what he hopes will be a successful 2016.
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But as the world No. 2 gets ready for another shot at the Australian Open, he’s also preparing to become a father, as he and his wife Kim are expecting their first-born in February.
Fatherhood will provide a new challenge for the 28-year-old Scot and it is one he is very much looking forward to.
“I started to think about it more the last few weeks. When we first found out, obviously it was very exciting, but we found out when Kim was two and a half weeks pregnant so it’s actually a long wait. I think athletes are normally quite impatient for results,” Murray told Sport360 on Wednesday on the sidelines of the IPTL, where he’s been playing for the Singapore Slammers this week in Dubai.
“And between the 10 and 20-week mark, I wasn’t thinking so much about it, but lately the last few weeks yeah – it’s getting close now and looking forward to it.”
In Dubai, Murray is joined by his French coach Amelie Mauresmo, who herself became a mother just four months ago. They started their training block a mere four days ago, reuniting for the first time since Wimbledon, and lucky for him, the Frenchwoman is not just giving him advice on his tennis, but can pitch in with parenting tips if needed.
“It’s great, a lot of the people that are around me are having kids just now. Ugo Colombini (who oversees Murray’s tournament commitments) just had two kids. Matt Gentry who works for my management company he’s having a kid in three or four weeks. Obviously Amelie as well. So it’s nice, got a lot of people that can help,” says Murray.
The Scot feels a lifetime in tennis can also come in handy when it comes to navigating the new territory of parenthood. While Murray concedes he is not sure what to expect when the baby arrives, he knows many of the values he acquired as a professional player will help him.
“I think there’s certain things sport does teach you. Hard work and discipline are two of the most important things if you want to get to the top and I think when you’re trying to become a father I think it is hard work and you do need to be disciplined and quite strict as well,” he explained.
“So I think that will help me. But it’s something completely new and it will take time to adjust to and stuff.
“But I’m looking forward to it just because it’s something completely new. For a few years my life was just tennis and after a while that becomes a bit more stressful and you put more pressure on yourself. So when you have things going on away from the court, you have a distraction, something to take your mind off tennis, so I think it will help me on the court too.”
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Mauresmo’s return from her maternity break is something Murray is thrilled about as the dynamic duo plan to resume their coaching relationship through 2016.
In Mauresmo’s absence, Murray had enlisted the help of Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman and while it appears the ex-world No. 4 will not be around next year, the final decision has not been made yet according to the Brit.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure yet,” Murray said. “The plan with Jonas was to work through the end of the year (2015), it was obviously the difficult period of the year with Amelie, we wanted to see how it would be for her when she came back into the team and she felt like it could work travelling with a child. Seems like that’s going to be good.
“We’re not 100 per cent sure yet, but the plan is for me to work with Amelie through next year. But I really appreciate what Jonas did. It was a difficult job coming at a very difficult time of the year then also sort of waiting to see how Amelie would be as well. He’s been really good. He’s literally the nicest guy as well.”
On the court, Murray is aware he needs to take his game to a new level in order to catch up with the incredibly dominant Novak Djokovic, who has handed him six defeats in seven meetings this year.
Last August, Murray snapped an eight-match losing streak to Djokovic though, to win the title in Montreal, but their last two clashes of the year in Shanghai and Paris were a breeze for the Serbian world No. 1.
While some players can develop a complex or have a mental block after so many crucial defeats to the same player, Murray has a lot of experience in handling such situations.
“The matches in Shanghai and Paris are the ones that I need to look at and see what I did wrong in these matches to make sure that in the beginning of next year I do better,” he said. “But all you can do is keep working your hardest, try your best, try to learn from the defeats and improve.
“I’ve had to do it a lot in my career because of the guys I’m playing against that you really have to make sure you keep learning from them and your matches against them in order to improve your level.
“Because against the rest of the tour this year I had a great record, so if I could just change two or three matches during the year, it can change the whole way people view me, or view my year.”
Murray’s fitness is one area in which he had drastically improved a few years back and he is now considered one of the fittest players on tour. Asked if there is one area he feels he can dramatically develop to take his game to another level, Murray gave a surprising answer.
“My return has always been maybe the best part of my game but in the last few matches against Novak and also Roger at Wimbledon, I had one break point against Roger and he served great that day but that break point was in the first game of the match,” said Murray, who ranks in the top-four in all return statistics among all players in 2015.
“When I played him in Cincinnati I don’t think I had a break point the whole match. When I played against Novak I also wasn’t creating a lot of break point chances and there’s a few things I’ve looked at and have been working on in my practices with regards to my return.
“Because I’ve been returning well against most of the players but against the top players, anything you’re not doing great it gets exposed.“I think the changes I’ve made on the return will help me a lot with that so although it might sound like a strange thing to say because the return is the best part of my game, against the best players I haven’t returned as well as I need to, to win against them.”