The last time Murray faced Tomas Berdych in a grand slam semi-final, it all got a bit tasty. At the time, Murray had recently sacked his best friend, Dani Vallverdu, from his team and, having failed to persuade Ivan Lendl to join the Czech camp, Berdych had pounced within days to sign the Venezuelan.
Tempers were simmering before the match and boiled over during it when Kim Murray was caught on camera giving the Czech a right mouthful – most of it unprintable – as her husband came back from a set down to win in four. For the final, Kim wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Parental Advisory. Explicit Content”.
But that was 18 months ago in Australia where the rules are more relaxed. In the genteel surroundings of the All England Club, Mrs Murray has been immaculately turned out and, apart from a few anxious looks during her husband’s five-setter against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Wednesday, she had little to get worked up about. Anyway, the world No 2 and Berdych get along fine these days.
“I spoke to Tomas the day afterwards and apologised; we’ve been great since,” Murray said. “It was a really uncomfortable period, that one. Dani was someone I had known since I was 15. He was one of my best friends and in the press and the build-up to the match, stuff was awkward. A grand slam semi-final is tense enough and when you throw that into the equation, it wasn’t great.
“Obviously I could have possibly handled myself better in the match. Me and Tomas had always got on well for the most time and the tension spilled over to my team and to my wife.”
In the intervening months, Berdych sacked Vallverdu in May following a 6-0, 6-0 humiliation at the Italian Open and Murray has beaten the Czech a further three times on both hard court and clay without dropping a set. That in itself is a turnaround as Berdych was one of the few players to have a winning record over the Scot but, in recent years, Murray has redressed that balance and now leads their career rivalry by eight wins to six.
“When we played at the beginning of our careers he was much physically stronger than me,” Murray said. “In the last few times I have played him I feel I’m much better against him physically to what I was even a few years ago. Since the back surgery I have been playing, as he said, more offensive tennis with a lot of variety and making it harder for him to play his game.”
Berdych has been extremely complimentary about Murray’s game in the lead-up to today’s match. From starting life as a defensive, counter-puncher, Murray had become, he believed, “more aggressive, way more creative on the court”. In order to keep pace, Berdych approached Lendl for help more than a year ago but Lendl did not want to play ball. Berdych does not have an issue with Lendl returning to the Murray fold but the Scot is obviously delighted.
“I think it’s maybe because we know how it went the last time,” Murray said, “that it’s, I don’t want to say less of a risk in a way, but because it went so well last time that now is just the time.
“Ivan watched me a bit over the last few months and saw I was playing better. Physically I was doing good. I was in a tough place when we stopped the last time. Obviously when I came back from my back surgery it was not an easy time but he clearly thought he could help and my game is going in the right direction. So that’s why I think he decided he wanted to do it again.”
But if Murray has developed and improved as a player, Berdych is much the same as always: physically strong but mentally fragile. He was a finalist in SW19 in 2010 (when he took a pasting from Rafael Nadal) but Murray does not see any reason to change his usual approach to the Berdych challenge so there will be no frantic phone calls to Vallverdu for insider knowledge.
“Dani and Ivan speak all the time,” Murray said, “and obviously Tomas has spoken to Ivan a bunch when Tomas was trying to get him to work with him. But I have played him well the last few times and I don’t want to over-complicate it. I know what works well against him and try to stick to that.”
If he sticks to that and Kim sticks to her current wardrobe, Murray ought to be just fine.