The Special One is helping the Scottish One – and Andy Murray is hoping that it will be a winning combination.
As the Wimbledon champion eases his way back to fitness after back surgery six weeks ago, he is using Chelsea FC’s training facilities in Cobham, Surrey, to do much of his rehabilitation work. The luxury training complex is just a stone’s throw away from Murray’s home in Oxshott and, with all the latest and most sophisticated equipment at his disposal, the Scot’s recovery is – so far – going well and going quickly.
Chelsea’s charismatic boss, Jose Mourinho, has stopped by for a chat as Murray has grafted away, although he has not dared to offer the world No 4 any tips or advice. The two first met three years ago in California. At the time, Murray was playing in the Los Angeles tournament while Mourinho, then coaching Real Madrid, was on a pre-season tour with his Galacticos. And Murray was utterly starstruck.
Time – and football – moves on very quickly and now that the Special One is reinstalled at Chelsea, Murray is pleased to see him back in Britain, particularly when he livens up an otherwise tedious rehab session.
“The first day that I was in Cobham, Jose Mourinho came down to say hi and chatted,” Murray said. “He didn’t give me any advice but for me it was just really interesting to speak to him. I love football. I had met him a couple of times before it was nice to have to him there. It’s nice to have him back managing in Britain because it is very exciting to see what he is doing.”
But, once that initial excitement was over, it was back to the daily grind for the Scot. While the rest of the world’s best players prepare for the ATP World Tour Finals which start on Monday at London’s O2 Arena, Murray will be alone at Cobham doing what the doctor orders.
“I’ve been in the swimming pool over the last ten days or so,” Murray said. “I’ve been able to do some weights. I’m not doing any rotational stuff yet, so most of the stuff is just straight-line running in the pool. It’s basically like an underwater treadmill, which has been a massive help for me to be able to do that, because there aren’t many of them around. It’s sped up the recovery a lot to be able to do that.”
So far, he has not set a date for his comeback – Murray refuses to be rushed and will only return to the tour when he feels that he is 100 per cent fit and ready – but there are a few possibilities already pencilled in to his calendar. He would like to play in the Dream Cup, an exhibition event in Barbados at the end of November and is planning on going to Miami a couple of weeks before that to begin his annual winter training programme. That, in turn, would prepare him for the Australian Open in January. But everything depends on how his back responds over the coming days.
“I want to come back on court when I’m 100 per cent fit,” he said yesterday at the launch of the new Head Graphene Radical racket at Queen’s Club. “I’m hoping to hit a couple of balls next week for the first time since the surgery but very few and very light, just to see how it is. I have still got quite a way to go until I am 100 per cent.”
Murray will not say what it is that was wrong with his back or exactly what it was the surgeons did for him – all he will say is that the operation was necessary if he was to be able to lead as normal a life as any top athlete can hope to lead. After more than two years of playing through the pain, Murray had had enough and opted for surgery to cure his problems once and for all.
“I don’t want to go into my medical history but there were a few issues going on with my back that were causing me quite a lot of pain,” he said. “It started in December 2011. It got worse for a period of time and then kind of stayed the same. Then it started to be up and down.
“I just couldn’t handle playing with that pain any longer. All the things I like to do away from the court – playing football, go-karting, golf, other sports – I wasn’t able to do any of that. I was just like: ‘I don’t want to have to do that for the next five or six years. I don’t want to just have to do hours of physio every day.’ I was having to adjust the way I was training on the court, adjust the way I was training in the gym. I just wanted to be able to do all the things that I used to be able to do.”
In the meantime, it is back to the underwater treadmill in the hope that a little of the Special One’s magic can rub off on him and get him back on court long before Christmas.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic ditched his Darth Vader mask but still proved too daunting for American John Isner as he reached the Paris Masters quarter-finals with a 6-7(5), 6-1 6-2 victory. The Serbian world
No 2, who entered the Bercy arena last year as the infamous Star Wars villain, survived a barrage of aces from the towering Isner before dispatching him.
“I know, I know. It’s my fault. I was not prepared enough. . . so I’m going to have to be pretending that I’m myself this year.
No Darth Vader,” Djokovic said afterwards.
Roger Federer showed glimpses of his brilliant best as the 17-times grand slam champion outclassed German Philip Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4 to advance into the last eight.