HOME is where the heart is and for Andy Murray, that means the grass courts of south-west London. Today marks the start of his favourite time of the season, a six-week spell when he can sleep in his own bed, play in front of his home crowds and, if history does indeed repeat itself, pick up a trophy or two.
Murray has had a week to recover from the virus he picked up at the French Open, he has had a good few days of practice on the green turf and he has even had a chance to spend some time with his new wife. Rested, recovered and back at home, he is ready for all that the coming weeks have to offer. Being at home really is good.
“Jonas was a fantastic net player too. I think that’s something he can help me understand better”Andy Murray
“I’ve spent time with the dogs, watched a bit of TV and stayed off the Internet,” he said. “I just kind of got away from everything. Just a few days at home being with Kim was nice. Since we got married, I hadn’t spent any days at home after that. Maybe one or two after I got back from Rome. It was nice not to have to do anything for those few days.”
But now he is ready to get back to work and this week, Murray is chasing his fourth Aegon Championship title at the Queen’s Club. He has made a habit of winning the title in the “odd” years – 2009, 2011 and 2013 – so he is due another winner’s cheque and another chance to lift the huge, silver cup.
In the Open Era, only John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick have won four times at the Queen’s – and the last time the now retired Roddick faced Murray at Queen’s, he took such a pasting that he begged the Scot to “keep it social” as Murray blasted past him 6-3, 6-1. The world No 3 has plenty of happy memories of his time on Britain’s green and pleasant grass.
“I’ve seen the highlights of that match [against Roddick] a couple of times,” Murray said. “Often when I move on to a new surface, I watch some videos of matches where I feel like I’ve played well in that tournament or on that surface. You see things that you were doing well, the things that were giving you success, and it’s good to remember that. If you are still in same mindset of playing on clay and what you were doing well on the clay, it doesn’t necessarily help. I’ve seen that match a few times, but I haven’t watched it yet this year.”
Oddly, though, Murray has not watched his historic Wimbledon success of 2013. The rest of the country may remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when he ended the 77-year wait for a home-grown Wimbledon champion, but Murray has not spent much time dwelling on the moment.
Beating Novak Djokovic that afternoon fulfilled a lifelong dream for the Scot but the real turning point in his career came 12 months earlier when he won gold at the London Olympics and that is his go-to video when he needs to remind himself of how to win major titles.
“That [the Wimbledon final] is one of the matches, I don’t know why, that I have hardly watched at all,” he said. “I’ve watched bits of the match, but not extended periods. It’s more the Olympics. I’ve watched my match with Novak at the Olympics a couple of times, and the final with Roger [Federer] there, quite a few times, rather than Wimbledon.”
This year, though, it will be a new, more aggressive Murray on show in London. Jonas Bjorkman, the former world No 1 doubles and world No 4 singles champion, joined the Scot’s team for the start of the clay court season and in their first training sessions together, he encouraged his charge to attack more; to go for his service returns and to take his courage in both hands and come to the net occasionally.
Murray certainly heeded the advice as he swept through the clay court swing for the loss of only one match and now that he is back on the quicker, slicker grass, Bjorkman’s influence ought to be plain to see.
As Murray explained: “The things that I will use and learn and benefit from his experience of what he did well are: he was a great returner, a very aggressive returner. That’s something you see the rewards of on grass, maybe more than on a clay court.
“It can help everywhere, but if you are being aggressive on the grass with the returns you can get quick points, free points, and it puts a lot more pressure on the server. It’s not as easy to do that on the slower courts.
“Jonas was a fantastic net player, too. I think that’s something he can help me understand better. If I can incorporate those two things over the next few weeks and into the hard-court season in the States, that will help for sure.”
Tomorrow, the more aggressive Murray will take Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei in the first round at Queen’s. Now aged 31 and ranked No 62 in the world, Lu reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2010 by beating Roddick in five sets.
Now that Queen’s Club has been promoted to a 500 level event (500 ranking points and a cheque for £276,000 goes to the winner), the draw is tough and even the qualifiers like Lu present a real challenge. But this is Murray’s back yard – this is his turf and on the evidence of his recent form, this could be his year.