November 6, 2014 / 3:03 AM / in 3 years

Murray ready to go where no man has gone before

PARIS (Reuters) - Breaking British records has become a bit of a habit for Andy Murray.

Andy Murray of Britain returns a shot during his men's singles tennis match against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the third round of the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Bercy sports hall in Paris, October 30, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Next week, however, the Scot will have a chance to achieve something no tennis player has ever done -- win four different titles in the city of London.

Murray’s impressive prize collection already includes a Wimbledon Challenge Cup, a London 2012 Olympic gold medal and three Queen’s Club trophies. Should he become the first Briton to win the elite season-ending ATP World Tour Finals, he will own a unique set of titles captured on British soil.

As he prepares to finish off his season on a high, the twice grand slam champion sat down with Reuters to discuss how “it’s been three or four years” since he “felt so well”, about his recent run of form when he won three titles in five weeks and his opinion on who is the best dancer in the Murray family.

REUTERS: How does the past month and a half, when you have had to save 10 match points in finals before winning three titles in five weeks compare to the past two seasons when you won grand slam titles?

MURRAY: ”It’s been different. Different goals and targets. With my ranking having dropped a bit and obviously I hadn’t won a tournament for a while... the last four of five weeks have been very good for that.

“The way the finals have been won, I saved (five) match points in two of them and also in the third one (David) Ferrer was serving for the match (in Vienna). So they have been very, very tight close matches so it’s been nice to get a few wins.”

REUTERS: You have now been working with twice grand slam champion Amelie Mauresmo for almost five months, what has been her influence in your recent title runs?

MURRAY: ”Amelie was only there in Valencia whereas Dani (Vallverdu) has been with me (throughout) so we have to give him credit as well. When you start a new coaching relationship, it takes time before you see the results, it doesn’t happen in one week.

“Hopefully at the beginning of next year we’ll start to see the improvements I will have made from practicing, working with Amelie and Dani.”

REUTERS: Do you consider yourself as something of a trend setter because you hire a former grand slam champion as coach and others follow suit. You appoint a woman as coach and the Spanish tennis federation follows suit by appointing a female Davis Cup captain?

MURRAY: ”The relationships have to be successful and when it’s a successful relationship, people will look at it and see that maybe that would work.

”Obviously with (my previous coach) Ivan (Lendl), that obviously worked out well in terms of results so I‘m sure some players would have looked at that. With Amelie, it’ll take time but it’s been a good start.

”We’ll see if that changes in the future and if there’s more female coaches on the men’s and women’s side because there is very few on the women’s side as well.

”For me I am more than happy to work with a man or a woman providing there is a relationship there between the two of you when you speak about tennis, that there’s an understanding.

“Similar understanding about the game. The things you need to work on, that’s very important. And the only way you can gauge that is the way you communicate with that person.”

HIGHEST LEVEL

REUTERS: The ATP World Tour Finals is the only significant tournament on British soil you have yet to win, how much would it mean to you to complete the ‘2012 London Olympics-Wimbledon-ATP World Tour Finals’ treble while the tournament is still being staged in London?

MURRAY: ”It would definitely mean a lot but it’s important to stay focused and play one match at a time.

”It is the top eight players in the world, so there are no easy matches.

“I know what it takes to win at the highest level so I will just make sure I prepare myself in the best possible way to give myself the best chance of success, but I am playing well and enjoying it right now.”

REUTERS: How do you feel about playing at the O2 for the first time since winning Wimbledon in July 2013 considering you had to miss the tournament last year following your back surgery?

MURRAY: ”It was disappointing not playing last year when I had to withdraw because of my back. It’s been a tough year, but I feel like I am back fully fit now, and have had a great last six weeks and I can’t wait to return to the O2.

”You’re obviously playing against the best players in the world, which is always a challenge.

”One of the main reasons I enjoy it so much is that it always has a great atmosphere. They get a huge number of fans during the week. Their support is always second to none and they do a great job in getting behind me.

“It’ll be incredibly special playing in front of a home crowd again, I couldn’t think of a better way to end the season.”

REUTERS: Did you miss playing at the tournament last year and what did you do during the week of the Finals?

MURRAY: “I was keeping myself pretty busy with all my rehab with my back last year at the time. I watched bits of matches. I wouldn’t sit down and watch a match from start to finish but I did watch it.”

REUTERS: Did you miss being there?

MURRAY: “It wasn’t so much that event that I was missing playing. There was a number of tournaments I missed at the end of last year after the U.S. Open and you do appreciate how much you enjoy the sport and how much you enjoy playing when you are unable to do it. That was tough last year.”

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

REUTERS: How does your run since the U.S. Open set you up for the Finals and 2015?

MURRAY: ”It’s good as I’ve obviously played a lot of matches, it’s just more whether I‘m tired or not (after playing for six successive weeks).

“I don’t know how I‘m going to feel in a week’s time but providing I do all the right stuff to prepare, if I get enough rest, and recovery... I’ve played enough matches, I’ve played enough tennis to give it a good go there.”

REUTERS: You had been warned that it could take up to 12 months to fully recover from the type of back surgery you had in September 2013, do you feel 100 percent fit now?

MURRAY: ”I started to feel good around May/June time, like around the French Open. Then I felt pretty good at Wimbledon as well. But I wasn’t able to do all of the work away from the court that I needed to do to be physically as strong as I would like to be. So that was tough.

“But in terms of my back, my back felt good at that period. After Wimbledon I was able to train 100 percent again and I‘m starting to see the effects of that now.”

REUTERS: The way you physically feel now, when was the last time you felt like this?

MURRAY: “It’s tough to say exactly but it was a long time ago. My back was giving me trouble for about two years before I had the surgery, it’s been another year since... so I would say it’s been three or four years since I felt so well.”

REUTERS: Since you are such a trend setter in tennis, are there any other leftfield decisions people can expect from you in the near future?

MURRAY: ”I don’t try to do things that are leftfield. You would think that working with previous great tennis players would be helpful, in my view it wasn’t thinking outside the box.

”It’s just sometimes people are maybe worried to ask to see if they want to do it. Because it’s a lot of time, and traveling. It’s a big commitment to coach on the tour and not many people who’ve played for 10-12 years want to go straight back and want to do it.

“I‘m just going to keep doing what I‘m doing and hopefully make good decisions and help my career as much as I can.”

REUTERS: Who’s the better dancer in the family, you or your mum (Judy -- the British Fed Cup captain who has been competing in the reality show Strictly Come Dancing)?

MURRAY: (smiling) “Judging by some of her performances, I’d say I‘m probably better! But she’s been improving. I haven’t seen loads of it because I’ve been traveling but she seems to be enjoying herself.”

REUTERS: Some people have been saying that the longer she stays in the show, the better it is for your tennis fortunes since you have done so well these past few weeks when she hasn’t been able to support you from the stands?

MURRAY: “Ha, but she was there when I won the U.S. Open, when I won Wimbledon and when I won the Olympics, so I‘m not sure that has much affect on what goes on the tennis court to be honest.”

Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Toby Davis

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