US Open: Andy Murray ready to champion doubles players

Andy Murray takes on late-bloomer Paolo Lorenzi in the third round at Flushing Meadows today. Picture: AP.
Andy Murray takes on late-bloomer Paolo Lorenzi in the third round at Flushing Meadows today. Picture: AP.
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It is not what you know in this life that counts, it is who you know – as Jamie Murray may be about to find out.

Like his brother, Andy, Jamie was elected to the ATP Player Council in June and the group met for the first time just before the US Open started. It was a four-and-a-half hour talk-a-thon – there was clearly much to discuss – but what may have surprised Jamie is that Andy is planning to champion the cause of the doubles players. Singles players tend not to notice the doubles players much.

“One of the things I brought up in the meeting was doubles,” Andy said. “Obviously I’ve seen it with my brother when he was sort of ranked 40 in the world or so and how difficult it is for a lot of the doubles guys.

“They don’t know their schedule until last minute all the time because of the on-site sign-in. They have to get flights at the last minute. They can’t make a proper schedule with the flights. Plane tickets and everything are very expensive, as well. And the singles players always get priority a lot of the time.

“I just think there’s a few things with doubles that could be done better, especially the way the entry system is done. In Paris last year, it was the first time I’d been at one of the sign-in deadlines. There has to be a better system than that. There were ten people standing in, signing in with 30 seconds to go. Some people are calling in. Some people are emailing. I think there should be a better way of doing that.”

Add that to his wish to help the lower-ranked singles players with a fairer distribution of the prize money pot and Andy is rapidly turning into the patron saint of players no one has really heard of.

Just a couple of years ago, the younger Murray steered well clear of such political positions. A brief spell helping out with negotiations between the players and the grand slam tournaments had warned him off the interminable meetings but now that he is a little older, a little wiser and has considerable clout – when he speaks, players, administrators and tournament directors tend to listen – he is ready to take his turn on the council.

“Obviously you have to be voted in,” he said, “and I got voted in. Then see if there’s anything I can help with. I had the first meeting before here. A lot of things got discussed. I’m looking forward to doing it. How much you can change things, I don’t know.”

For the moment, Murray’s world view is a little more blinkered as he plots his path around Paolo Lorenzi in the third round of the US Open.

The 34-year-old Italian is one of the latest of late bloomers on the tour as back in July, aged 34 years and 221 days, he won his first ATP title at the Kitzbühel tournament. That made him the oldest first-time winner the tour had ever known. It also pushed him up towards his career high ranking of 
No 39 (he’d dropped back one place as the US Open began).

No one could ever accuse Lorenzi of being a slacker – this is his 26th tournament of the year (Murray is playing his 14th) – and on Thursday night, he slogged and puffed for four hours and 54 minutes to beat Gilles Simon, the No 30 seed, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-7, 7-6.

It booked his first ever place in the third round of a grand slam and meant that, in the space of four days, he had doubled his record of success at the major championships. Coming into New York, he had only won two grand slam singles matches in 21 attempts; this week he has won two more. But he is not convinced he is ready to add to that tally.

“Right now, I’m feeling dead,” he said having hobbled off court after his win over Simon. “I’m feeling very tired but I think it is normal because we play almost five hours.

“I think Andy is playing really good. With Lendl, he’s lost just one match. He’s playing great. He’s confident and I think he has a lot of chances to win the title. I think with Andy it’s always a tough match – that’s why I have to be 100 per cent because it’s my only chance to play my best tennis and maybe it’s not enough.”