TENNIS star Andy Murray, in the best form of his career, has revealed that for the first time a psychologist is helping him deal with off-the-court pressures.
The Scot has been criticised in the past for steering clear of experts in mind games, instead venting his frustration on court.
But this year – with new coach Ivan Lendl and after winning both his first grand slam title, the US Open, and Olympic gold – Murray hopes Alexis Castorri will give him the mental edge he needs to become world number one.
Ironically, Murray made the revelation after breaking his racquet on the ground in anger during his third round match in the Shanghai Masters against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov yesterday. The Scot went on to win the match 6-2 6-2 to reach the quarter finals.
As a player, Lendl used to work with Castorri, from Fort Lauderdale in Florida, and now Murray is talking to the same voice of reason.
Murray said: “It started earlier in the year. When I first spoke to Ivan in December, he asked if I used a sports psychologist and I said no.
“He asked if I was open to it and I said that I was always open to try things, try new people.”
Murray revealed Castorri’s focus is on pressures off the tennis court.
He said: “Most times when I’d spoken to sports psychologists before, I ended up talking about the tennis court, what goes on there, ways to deal with the time in between points, all of that stuff.
“There’s been a bit of that. But I’ve spoken a lot more about things off the court, which is completely different.
“There’s obviously a lot of people that I work with and it’s all about knowing how to speak to people and manage situations a bit better, too.
“Obviously, a lot of the guys I’ve worked with, I’ve known for a very long time. We are friends also. So it can sometimes be hard to open up if there’s something you’re not necessarily happy with, something you want to change. That’s probably what’s helped most.”
At the start of his career, Murray could simply get on with the business of playing and winning. As he climbed the rankings, so the pressure of expectation grew and his entourage expanded.
Castorri has helped Murray cope with such problems. His results have also improved. He is now the Olympic and US Open champion.
Murray said: “I feel like when my mind isn’t free of anything that might be frustrating me away from the court, I can’t focus as well as I need to.
“When my mind’s clear, I can go on the court and play, not worry about anything else, I can play much better and think a lot better on the court.
“When I was young, my tactical knowledge was always one of my best attributes, knowing how to win matches.
“And sometimes if I wasn’t thinking about the match, I was wasting one of my biggest assets. I’ve been able to use that more.
“The US Open was a good example of that, where I didn’t play my best throughout the tournament, but I played smart tennis.
“Even when it was really tough, I found ways to win when I wasn’t playing well.”
With the experienced Lendl to help him find solutions to problems on the court and Castorri to guide him through problems off it, Murray is a new man.
As the Australian Open is just three months away, hopes are high his winning form will continue.