THIS time last year, it was his mum tripping the light fantastic under the guidance of Anton du Beke; now it is Andy Murray who is trying to set his toes a-twinkling with the help of Teresina Goheen, a former professional dancer.
Murray has no ambitions to don sequins and tails and try his luck in Strictly Come Dancing but he is hoping to learn a little faster than his mother, Judy, who despite all the coaxing and cajoling from Du Beke, admitted that she still danced with all the flexibility of “an ironing board”.
The world No.2 has added Goheen to his team in the hope that she can help him with his movement, flexibility and footwork as he tries to juggle training on two different surfaces in preparation for the ATP World Tour Finals on the hard courts of London’s 02 Arena this week and the Davis Cup on an indoor clay court in Ghent, Belgium, next week. He knows that his build-up for both events is not ideal but maybe Goheen can smooth over some of the cracks.
“I’ve had a lady come across from America that I do this Gyrotonics with,” Murray explained. “It’s like Pilates but it’s different movements. I did a session every day, which helps with my movement and flexibility. I also did it when she came over to Barcelona.”
That stint in Barcelona in the spring clearly paid dividends as Murray set off from there to complete the best clay-court season of his career, winning two titles and reaching the semi-finals of the French Open.
Goheen is based in San Francisco and specialises in Gyrotonics. A former dancer who performed with Michael Crawford and the Tulsa and Milwaukee ballet companies, she is now a “bodywork” instructor with the aim of improving her clients’ strength and flexibility – and that is exactly what Murray needs as he tries to adapt to the slow, clay courts.
The transition to clay is always the hardest for the Scot as the sliding movements on the slippery surface are, initially, alien to a man brought up on hard courts. His preparations usually take time – a rare commodity at this time of year – and he has to be careful as the new way of moving can hurt his back. This time, though, with Goheen’s help and the work of his physios and trainers, Murray came through four days of intensive clay-court work last week unscathed.
“It was good, better than I expected to be honest,” Murray said. “I felt pretty good the whole week. Obviously my back was a bit stiff during my match with Gasquet in Paris [nine days ago] but it’s been better most days. None of the issues I had a couple of years ago.”
The Tour Finals are, for most of the world’s top eight players, one of the highlights of the season. This is their reward for a successful and consistent year and now is their chance to show off their skills to the world and to their nearest rivals. But for Murray, his year has revolved around the Davis Cup, and he has bust a gut to get Britain to their first final since 1978.
Now, with three days of all-out effort in the final to come, he could lead Britain to their first victory since 1936. But that does not mean that the Tour Finals are playing second fiddle to the Davis Cup – far from it.
“My ambition is to win the tournament,” he said of his plans for his week at the 02. “But I have to be realistic about how well I will start the event. It’s impossible to prepare for both events, or it is for me anyway. For some guys, they can rock up on a clay court and immediately feel great.
“I will go out there and give it my best in all of the matches. That’s all anyone can ask for. You can’t always play your best tennis but I will definitely give my best effort in all of the matches.
“If I was thinking ahead about the Davis Cup, to show up and then get pumped three times while getting ready for Ghent is terrible preparation. So I want to go out there and perform well, winning some big matches against the best players in the world, and that will give me confidence for the Davis Cup as well. The Davis Cup is in my mind because I am using it as a positive because playing matches against the world’s best players is better than practising against anybody. Getting these matches and hopefully winning some would be the best preparation.
“I’m not saying Davis Cup is not in my mind this week. The Davis Cup is fuelling me for this week and the training week before it gets going.”
The Tour Finals begin today and Murray plays his opening match against David Ferrer tomorrow afternoon. There will not be a sequin in sight at the 02 (not if the famously understated Murray can help it) but he will be definitely be centre stage and in the spotlight for what could be the biggest two weeks of his career.