Wimbldeon: Andy Murray gets serious for Dimitrov

Defending champion Andy Murray jokes with coach Amelie Mauresmo during a practice session ahead. Picture: Getty
Defending champion Andy Murray jokes with coach Amelie Mauresmo during a practice session ahead. Picture: Getty
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THERE’S been the keepy-uppy challenge for the BBC and then the light-hearted contest between Andy Murray’s fitness trainer Jez Green and Grigor Dimitrov’s coach Roger Rasheed.

But while there has been a greater willingness to share the fun side of his personality with the wider public, there is no doubting that Murray is very serious about defending the title he won here 12 months ago.

The moments of levity are there but so is the steel, his approach impressing new coach Amelie Mauresmo as well as all who have seen his first four matches.

“He lives tennis, that is his life and he should,” said the Frenchwoman, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 2006. “That is what every professional does at this level and I’m not surprised by this at all. You would expect it. It is the difference between those who merely dream and those who deliver.

“There is a difference for sure, a huge difference in either men’s or women’s tennis. I noticed it, I lived it as a player. I see it around.”

The desperation to win this title, which was whipped up into a frenzy at this time every year, has been replaced by a less manic desire since he ended the 77-year drought last summer. There is a balance between the intensity that continues to burn within and a calmness that has helped him ease through to the quarter-finals without dropping a set or ever really looking troubled.

As someone who had to tackle her own mental demons on the road to success and learn how to control the emotions that swirled inside, Mauresmo says the job Murray is doing in that department will continue to be important as Dimitrov and the Scot leave the frivolity behind and get down to the serious business of sealing a place in the semi-final.

“He is doing good in this aspect of the game because it is very important,” said Mauresmo, adding that she had not been on board long enough to start suggesting major changes.

“He has his own habits, his own way of doing things and I don’t think it would be wise to all of a sudden come up with some very different things. We are talking about different aspects, whether it is his game, how to approach a match, how to approach being a defending champion and walking on Centre Court, many different things.”

Mauresmo said the main feeling she enjoyed when she returned to the All England Club lawns to defend her title was one of pride. She tried to ride the wave of emotion and embrace the atmosphere, just as Murray has done. But she said there was definitely a time to push all that to one side and focus on the match. “He has done that in a very good way,” she added.

Instances of frailty in Murray’s game have been few and far between. The 2012 Olympic win and last summer’s triumph means he is now 17 games unbeaten on the world’s most famous grass courts. But Dimitrov’s record has been impressive as well. The former Wimbledon junior champion nabbed Murray’s crown in the Queen’s Club tournament, the warm-up event which has often proved a decent indicator of who to expect will do well at The Championships, and has been strong in his progress through the early rounds, losing just two sets in his advance to today’s meeting with Murray.

“We’re getting further in the draw, you are expecting tougher and tougher matches and this quarter will be a tough one definitely,” said Mauresmo, after she had put Murray through his paces on the Aorangi practice courts yesterday.

“Grigor has been showing great form, winning at Queen’s and doing well here but Andy is also in good form. What I am happy about is the way he is playing in the first four matches and that he is feeling good and the game has come together so far but the next one will be even tougher. It is exciting.”

But there is a reason Murray and Dimitrov are so easy in each other’s company. Both like a laugh and both love to win. There is a friendship but also mutual respect.

Like Murray, the Bulgarian was introduced to the sport as a youngster by his family. It was his dad Dmitar who coached him but he, too, had a sporty mother, who would help encourage him. A fan of Pete Sampras as a kid, his boyhood dream was also to become the Wimbledon champion.

“This is the farthest I have gone at Wimbledon but I expect more from myself. I’m never satisfied,” said the man who is almost as famous for dating Maria Sharapova as he is for his tennis exploits.

“Andy is a great guy on and off the court, I have a lot of respect for him. We have practised a lot, we have played matches against each other. So I don’t think there will be any secrets out there on the court.

“The most important thing for us, especially for me, is the approach coming into that match. He has home advantage but there are some things you can’t control. As much as it can help him it can also make him feel uncomfortable.

“Obviously he has been performing really well out here, winning all those matches. He is the defending champion. So this is something normal for him, he is expecting to win. That’s a good thing. But at the same time I am here to bring my goodies too! So we will see. For us it is something to be excited about. Everyone will have their eyes on us, everything else is up to us.”