In many ways, sport is a simple science: the harder you work, the better you play. Work in equals results out. Add in a decent helping of personal sacrifice and you should be laughing.
But as Andy Murray has discovered this past six months, the mathematical equation is somewhat flawed. No-one can complain that the world No.1 has not been working hard since he climbed to the summit of the rankings pile – he has never been a man to put his feet up – and as he travels the world, he is forgoing the usually cherished moments of his daughter’s growing up.
But the graft and the sacrifice have produced little of note so far this year and as he prepares for his opening match at the French Open (he will play Andrey Kuznetsov tomorrow or Tuesday), he is hoping that he can turn his year around and rediscover the form that took him to the world No.1 ranking in the first place.
Just to make matters worse, Murray has been plagued by illness and injury for the past four months. He came home from the Australian Open with shingles; he hurt his elbow in Indian Wells; he came back from that trip via Miami with a nasty virus and here, in Paris, he is trying to shake off a heavy cold. None of the complaints have been serious but added together, they have been hugely frustrating.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I’m more frustrated just because there’s so much stop-starting. You have to take a couple of days off because you are not feeling too well, or have a bit of trouble with the elbow and stuff. That’s just frustrating.
“After I got back from Miami when I was ill, I had blood tests. I was really sick for two days in Miami. I was in bed. I couldn’t move. One of the days I was really, really ill. I had a sore stomach. I was sweating, sore head, temperature, all that stuff.
“But when I got back I had tests and that showed I had suffered shingles. Earlier in the year I just went to the doctor and they just looked at me to confirm it was shingles. But I did not have any tests then.
“The blood tests done showed that everything else was fine. I did have tests for glandular fever and got the all clear.”
Safe in the knowledge there is nothing wrong with him – other than a major dose of bad luck – Murray is knuckling down on the practice courts in an attempt to work his way through his current problems. And judging by the amount of sweating and cursing taking place on the centre court on Friday, he is not holding back.
Murray’s on-court demeanour has always been “colourful” and it appears that his young daughter, Sophia, is taking after her dad, although the world No.1 was at pains to allocate liability elsewhere. As she grows up – she turned one in February – Sophia is showing her feisty side.
“She’s walking, talking a little bit, throwing a few more tantrums than when she was a baby,” he said.
But where does she get her temper from? “Her mum,” Murray said, swiftly landing the blame squarely at the feet of his wife.
“Just before I left for Monte Carlo [in April], she had just taken her first couple of steps. I come back a couple of weeks later and she’s walking, no problem. You miss big things now.”
Once the clay court season is over, Murray will have five whole weeks at home as the tour moves to the grass courts of south west London. It may be more, too, depending on how he does at Roland Garros. But he is more than willing to sacrifice time in his own bed if it means that he can put together a good run at the French Open.
Kuznetsov is the world No.85 from Russia. The two have met twice with Murray winning both times, but they have never faced each other on clay before. And Murray knows that Kuznetsov, once a member of the world’s top 40, is no slouch on the red dirt.
“He’s been playing a little bit better the last few weeks,” Murray said. “At the start of this year he has struggled a little bit but the last few weeks he’s been winning.
“He was in the semis of Geneva this week. He’s been working with Galo Blanco since Indian Wells and he’s made some improvements. It’s a good first match.”
Murray has done his sums. He knows he has done the hard graft and spending weeks away from his wife and daughter equates to more than enough sacrifice.
It is about time his luck changed and he started getting the results he deserves for all the work he has put in.