Andy Murray should have got married years ago. The effect that marriage to Kim Sears has had on Scotland’s finest has been remarkable – not only is he a proud and happy husband but now he is a clay-court champion and, on Sunday, he became only the fourth man ever to beat Rafael Nadal in a clay-court final.
Murray laughed at such a suggestion but, on reflection, he did admit that everything has fallen into place perfectly for him this year. The couple of weeks he took away from the tour to prepare for the wedding refreshed him before he dug in for the hard graft of his clay-court training. Jonas Bjorkman was able to join the team at the start of that training block. The rest of the team came up with new and better training programmes to get him fitter and healthier than ever before. And Murray, for his part, got on with the business of winning matches.
“It’s obviously been a great start,” he said, fiddling with his wedding ring. “There’s a lot of things that contribute to playing your best tennis, but, obviously for me, it’s been a very nice few weeks. The nicest thing was just getting to be around your friends and family for a few days and I got to go back up to Scotland and it was obviously great. It was just nice, nice memories.
“I had a nice a break after Miami with the wedding and the few days up there before I got training again. It kind of refreshed me and gave me good motivation going into the training block and then from there,having my team get me fit and healthy has been very beneficial. It’s been a good start and I hope it continues.”
It has taken Murray 10 years on the tour to crack the conundrum of the clay-court season. He is bright enough and talented enough to adapt his game to the slower surface – that has never been an issue – but it has been putting all the component parts of the preparation together that has been the problem.
But now that he has discovered what he needs to do to win on this surface, he wants to make sure that he learns from the experience. The French Open starts on May 24 and he is determined to be as ready as it is possible to be for his opening match.
“I think the most important thing is to really look back at the last few weeks and see actually what it was that I did well in the build-up,” he said.
“Normally, the way that you prepare will give you good results – if you prepare properly – and I’ve made pretty significant changes to what I’ve done in the past. So far, the results have been good, so I’ll look at the that so that when it comes to the five or six days before the French, I’ll know the things to work on and keep trying to improve those things, because obviously they’ve worked, and that’s really, for me, the most important thing.”
By winning the Mutua Madrid Open at the weekend, his 10th Masters 1000 title and his first on clay, he put himself in position as a contender for the Italian Open in Rome this week. The conditions there are similar to Roland Garros, more so than in Munich and Madrid where he has been winning these past two weeks.
In theory, playing in Rome would be the perfect build-up for the French Open, but Murray is not so sure and may pull out before his opening match tomorrow. “There’s no doubt that winning these couple of tournaments will give me more confidence going into the French Open,” he said, “but I need to use these next two weeks wisely and smartly so that I don’t lose momentum or a bit of confidence or whatever.
“I want to go into the French Open as healthy as I can be. That’s where there are a few question marks about Rome. If, maybe, I was to do very well there, that I could go into the French a bit fatigued and I don’t really want that. If I don’t play Rome, I would definitely take a few days off, go home and basically recover because it’s been a long couple of weeks.
“Then I’ll just push through, really. I’ll go to Paris early – Monday or Tuesday – and just try and get as much time on the courts there as I can and just work on the things that I’ve been doing and just try to use these last couple of weeks in a positive way.”
Murray may be unsure of his plans this week but what he does know is that he is better prepared for the clay than ever before, he is playing the tennis of his life on the red stuff and he has found a way to beat Nadal on Nadal’s favourite surface. And all of that is down the simple fact of being fit and pain-free for the first time in years.
“My team have made changes to the way that I train and prepare because it hadn’t worked the last few years,” Murray said. “My body was hurting and, physically, I couldn’t do the things that I was doing, so they’ve made changes which were necessary and my body feels way better because of it.
“I’ve been looking really at everything and trying to make small improvements across the board and I think it’s worked very well so far.”
And if Murray decides not to play at the Italian Open, it may well be that Rome’s loss is Roland Garros’s gain.