Team harmony helps Andy Murray feel on top of the world

Andy Murray will play Kei Nishikori today. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Andy Murray will play Kei Nishikori today. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

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The messages of congratulation have been flooding in. 
Everyone wants to let Andy Murray know how pleased they are now that he has reached the pinnacle of his sport as the world No 1.

But presents? Those cheesy mugs and tee shirts emblazoned with the legend “No 1 Dad!” and purporting to be from his infant daughter? Not so much. Not so much as a sausage. And that is a cause for some concern.

Jamie Murray, right, talks tactics with his partner Bruno Soares during their doubles win over the Bryan brothers. Picture: Getty

Jamie Murray, right, talks tactics with his partner Bruno Soares during their doubles win over the Bryan brothers. Picture: Getty

“I haven’t had any ‘No 1 Dad’ mugs… yet” a cheery Murray said after his opening win at the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday night. “I’ve got mugs similar to that for my wife, but she hasn’t got me any yet. I don’t know what that means…”

It probably means that Mrs Murray has better taste than her husband so he really ought not to worry. Anyway, there is plenty of time for silly gifts in the future.

Murray may only have a small buffer between himself and Novak Djokovic, the world No 2, but the Scot knows that as the coming months approach, he has plenty of chances to extend his lead. Djokovic has four titles and another final to defend in the first three months of next year; Murray has the Australian Open runner’s-up ranking points to protect.

Helping him in his attempt to put clear water between himself and his old rival will be Ivan Lendl, his high-profile celebrity coach, and Jamie Delgado, his lower-profile but constant helpmate. Bringing Lendl back into the fold this summer could have disrupted the harmony and unity in the rest of the team, but fortunately the poker-faced Lendl and the affable Delgado hit it off from the start. The only problem is that they have not yet had the chance to work together as a partnership.

“It was a bit different [at the start] because they didn’t know each other,” Murray said. “I think both of them will have gained each other’s trust, especially with what I have done since the US Open. Jamie has been there the whole time.

“We’ve not been able to do loads these last few days on the practice courts – there has not been much time. But in the off-season it will be good to see how they work together in a training environment where I am able to work on some stuff.

“During the Wimbledon period, when Ivan first came back, he kind of took the lead and it was quite new for Jamie but I think the off-season will be good.”

Lendl has been the alchemist’s stone in Murray’s career. The Scot’s talents were never in doubt but it is Lendl who has turned him into a champion. It began in 2012 in their first spell together and then was reprised this summer: from the moment Lendl landed in London to oversee the first practice session at Queen’s Club, Murray did not lose a match for two months.

“I have had my most successful periods when I was with Ivan,” Murray said. “But Ivan would be the first to say he cannot do every minute of every day and be on the road every single week. He needs there to be a very good team around me to help make it work.”

That team will be working towards plotting a path around Kei Nishikori this afternoon. Another win, particularly a straight sets win, would push him towards the semi-finals and a step closer to finishing the year as the 
No 1. If he could do that in front of a packed house at London’s O2 Arena, the crowd’s response would make Monday night’s standing ovation sound like a quiet night in at a Trappist monastery.

“It is the best atmosphere I have played in since I have been here over the years,” Murray said. “That helps. Like I said, it means you do get up for the match a bit more and you get the adrenaline pumping. It does make a big 
difference.”

His brother Jamie is certainly revelling in the atmosphere at the O2. Like Andy, he and his partner Bruno Soares are chasing the year-end No 1 ranking and yesterday moved closer to it with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Bob and Mike Bryan. With two wins under their belts, they lead their group as the only undefeated pairing.

Jamie said: “We certainly played a great match from start to finish. I think we’re both super pumped about the win. [We] Should have a good chance to progress further in the tournament now.”

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