Andy Murray sounds about as sick of the endless rumours and counter-rumours about match fixing in his sport as the tennis authorities themselves.
A day after further allegations emerged, the Scot said he felt sorry for those who had done nothing wrong but whose names had been dragged into the scandal. He also believes that the painful process of allegations, denials and investigations can, in the long run, only be good for the sport.
“I think for anyone who is innocent, whose name gets talked about with that stuff, then you for sure feel sorry for them if they have done nothing wrong,” he said. “Especially during an event like this it’s very distracting.
“But you also want to be competing in a clean sport as well. So sometimes asking questions, and the players being open about it and responding to it, and the people who are high up in the ATP and the ITF and Tennis Integrity Unit also talking about it, is also a good thing.
“If it’s never discussed and nobody ever hears a thing about it, I don’t think that’s good either. I think a lot of people will want a lot of answers to what’s being reported.
“Maybe some people see it as a negative for the sport in some ways. I think some positives can come from it as well, providing the appropriate people act in the right way and are proactive.”
At least it was all quiet on the match-fixing front yesterday, with no new revelations. For the first time since the Australian Open started, people were actually focusing on what was going on on the court rather than off it. And if they happened to be watching the world No 2, they would have noticed a man in extremely good form making mincemeat of the man with the biggest serve in the world. Murray flattened Sam Groth 6-0, 6-4, 6-1. He returned well, he moved well, he passed well and he wiped the floor with the tall Australian.
“I think it’s been a good start to the tournament,” he said. “I think I’ve played well. I’ve dropped my serve once in the first two matches and I actually haven’t served that well so that’s positive. I think it shows improvement in the second serve which is good. I think it’s been a good start but I still think I can play better.”
Joao Sousa, the Portuguese he has beaten six times in a row and twice in Australia, will pose a new challenge for the Scot when they meet for a place in the fourth round tomorrow. His first two opponents have been big men with big serves but Sousa will keep the Scot working from the baseline and drag him into long and taxing rallies. Should Murray win, though (and he has only ever dropped one set to his rival), the match should pay dividends. Sousa will give him rhythm from the back of the court which, in turn, will sharpen his timing and his ball striking.
“He’s a very good mover,” Murray said. “Good athlete. He wins. He knows how to win matches. He understands the game well and he gets the most out of his game.
“So, if I play well, I’ve got a good chance. But he’s the sort of player that, if your level’s not quite there, he’ll make it very tough for you, as he did when I played him at the French Open last year. I was in a bit of trouble against him there.”
But a lot of things have changed since that day at Roland Garros. Murray has won the Davis Cup and, in a few weeks, his wife Kim will have their first child.
When Djokovic won the Davis Cup in 2010, he said that he would never feel fear on a tennis court again. From there he set off on the most successful year of his career up to that point. At the end of 2014 he became a father and since then he has lost just six matches, and last year he had the most successful season of his life. The omens, then, are good for Murray.
“I think winning Davis Cup is obviously huge,” he said in his column in The Age in Australia, “but a lot of players have won Davis Cup and become fathers and it hasn’t meant that they’ve gone on to have the best years in their career. I think winning helps and gives you confidence and belief and everything, but I think the quality of the player is what’s most relevant. Psychologically, winning major competitions can help you as well and I’m sure that winning the Davis Cup helped Novak and helped most players that have won it. Whether I’ll go on to have the best year of my career, I have no idea but I’m going to try to, that’s for sure.”
But, for the first time since 2010, Murray will not have his wife beside him as he tries to win a major title. So close to her due date, she is unable to travel and so her husband is having to fend for himself. Left with the responsibility of organising everything in his scedule, everything from setting the alarm to making sure his kit is ready for the next day, he is soldiering on as best he can. But for the first time in his professional life, he is having to approach a grand slam campaign with a new mind-set – he has his wife to worry about these days.
“Normally when I’m at slams, I’m very sort of selfish and do everything for myself,” he said, “whereas now, when I’m away from the court, my priority is to try and communicate with Kim and try to help her in any way I can from here.
“But the baby is something exciting to look forward to but it’s just the timing of this event’s made it a little bit more stressful than maybe it needed to be.”
So far, the distraction of impending fatherhood has done wonders for Murray’s form in the first two rounds. Providing the phone does not ring with news that the baby is on its way, it may just focus his mind enough to win the title here for the first time.