IT WAS ever thus: no sooner do you get the day off you have been looking forward to for weeks than you fall ill and spend your precious free time in bed. So it was that Andy Murray coughed and spluttered his way to the Gare du Nord last weekend and dragged his aching limbs back to Oxshott to rest up before the grass court season began.
The world No.3 had played himself to a standstill during the clay court swing and, felled by the lurgy that had swept through both locker rooms at Roland Garros, did absolutely nothing for three-and-a-half days having lost in the French Open semi-finals to Novak Djokovic. Fortunately, this year, the calendar had been changed and there is an extra week between the French and the start of Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club – this year Murray could afford to be ill.
‘From the start of the year I felt ready to win majors again’
“I took three-and-a-half days off after Paris and then practised the last couple of days at Wimbledon and then I came here,” Murray said after the draw was made at Queen’s yesterday. “This is the first day I’ve practised here. I was actually sick for about a week and I needed to recover from that too. Then I just got back to training again.
“I actually felt OK the first few days [at the end of the French Open]. When I got on court and started running around it was fine. But, then, when I got back my left eyelid closed up and I was just ill. I had a bad cough for a couple of days and after that as well. I don’t know if I was just run down or tired. It had obviously been a long few weeks but I feel fine now.”
The good news for Murray is that his coach, Amelie Mauresmo, has been given the all-clear to come to Wimbledon and oversee his challenge for his second title in SW19. The Frenchwoman is expecting her first child in August and so had to check with her doctors if it was wise to involve herself in the Wimbledon media maelstrom as she tried to coach one of the world’s best players to the world’s most prestigious tournament. Presumably, her obstetrician is not a tennis fan and has never been to Wimbledon. Mauresmo, though, will not be at Queen’s – she, too, needs to rest and recover after Roland Garros.
“Obviously I like having her around the tournaments,” Murray said. “It’s been, for me, a very good start to the year. I think it’s good as well that before she is away for a few months from the team, that her and Jonas [Bjorkman, Murray’s assistant coach] can spend some time together because I would imagine that during Wimbledon, Amelie will take the lead and Jonas can see how we operate a bit more as a team. We know each other a lot better than we did at this time last year. So she’ll be able to help more [at Wimbledon] this year.”
Murray is the top seed at Queen’s and will open his account on Tuesday against a qualifier. He is scheduled to meet Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals, the same Dimitrov who beat him so soundly in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last summer, and, according to the seedings, should meet Stan Wawrinka in the final. That, of course, all depends on how well Wawrinka has recovered after winning the French Open last Sunday.
The extra time to adjust to the grass after so long on the clay is, Murray believes, a welcome luxury and one that is long overdue. Clay and grass are like chalk and cheese and, in the past, running straight from the Eurostar to the practice courts was not the best way to adapt to the slicker surface. This year, having played as well, if not better, than at any time in his career and with an extra week to practise, Murray is feeling confident about the coming month.
“From the beginning of the year I felt ready to win major competitions again,” Murray said. “It’s been huge, huge progress from where I was at this stage last year. I have played extremely well this year so I have to be happy about that.
“Obviously the grass courts suit my game better than the clay and if I can take some of the form from the clay over to the grass and the confidence I’ve built up there I’m sure I can have some good results. I felt like I played my best tennis on grass after I spent a long period on it before the Olympics, post-Wimbledon, when I spent like six, seven weeks on the grass. So the more time on the grass before Wimbledon, the better for all of the players, I think.”
And with no time off allowed between now and the end of Britain’s Davis Cup tie with France the week after Wimbledon, Murray should remain fit as a flea until the end of the grass court season.