Murray Muscles His Way Into ATP Elite
From on-court training to lung-bursting sprints, gym and yoga studio work, Andy Murray has worked tirelessly with his dedicated team over the past 12 months to transform himself from tour danger man to a genuine contender at Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai.
We were three-sevenths of the way through what was to be the defining championship of his career thus far and everyone's head was spinning, even his own. Andy Murray had beaten Jurgen Melzer of Austria in five exhilarating sets in the US Open, having been within two points of a defeat that would have rendered so much of his back-breaking effort of the previous nine months more than a touch wasteful.
Perhaps as he stepped up to serve, at 5-5 in the third set tie-break on the Grandstand court at Flushing Meadows, trailing by two sets to love, what flashed through Murray's mind were those 400-metre interval sessions (75 seconds on the track, 75 seconds recovery time), all that core work, the Bikram yoga sessions when he put his body through hellishly punishing twists, tweaks and bends inside the exercise equivalent of a kiln. With a gutteral roar, he unleashed a 138 mph serve. Melzer was rocked back on his heels; the match had turned. Murray would go on to win in the fifth.
At match's end, he flashed his right bicep, something he had done at Wimbledon after his fourth-round victory over the Frenchman Richard Gasquet, the most momentous recovery from two sets down he had achieved before his triumph over Melzer. It was meant as a gesture not to torment the already tormented (i.e. his vanquished opponent) but to show to the team he had assembled to take care of his physical welfare that he had done all they had demanded of him, and more.
Andy Murray reflects on an amazing year.
If he thought about it — and know Murray he probably has — it was also a retort to those who had shouted from the sidelines in the three years of his establishment as a professional, that he was in no physical condition to be a contender. A lot of what was said really hurt him but he recalls that it was Jean-Pierre Bruyere, a French chiropractor with whom he worked for more than a year, who offered some Voltaire-esque advice: "Don't let anyone mess with you. Take care of yourself. I don't want anyone to stop you by pushing you too hard when you're young. It's your body and your life. If you're hurt, regardless of what anyone says, don't play."
When Murray was being coached by Brad Gilbert, he was introduced to Michael Johnson, the Olympic gold medal sprinter and Mark Grabow, a fitness guru who had worked for the Golden State Warriors, a famed basketball team from California. The player delighted in such influences, each designed to push him that little bit harder to strengthen him so that various elements of his game, notably his serve, would become more potent. Murray did nothing that was being asked of him, without asking why it was being done. Satisfied, he would take it on.
The Scot was still growing and he was filling out, at the same time. Then, in Hamburg in May 2007, his right wrist gave out in one terribly explosive moment. It was a horrible event and one which, when he looks back, was a catharsis. "Maybe it would still have happened if I'd gathered a different team around me sooner," Murray recalls. "The risk is always there but perhaps it could have been reduced." And so, as Murray wondered who might coach him from November 2007 onwards, the decision was taken to employ a strong core of people who would enhance his physical well-being. He said: "Having finished that season so strongly (had Murray beaten Gasquet in the quarterfinal of the BNP Paribas Masters in Bercy, he would have qualified for the Masters Cup), I wanted to come back in even better form. There was no torture I wouldn't consider, including track work for the first time in my life."