Murray fights for hearts and minds as Wimbledon begins
British number one is still paying the price for his comment about the English football team in 2006
It's all eyes on Andy Murray as Wimbledon begins today, and the Scottish world number four appears to be making a concerted effort to lose his reputation as a curmudgeon and finally win over the British public ahead of this year's tournament.
Murray, who is seeded four and was due to face world number 56 Daniel Gimeno-Traver on Centre Court today, has made the semi-finals at the All-England Club in each of the last two seasons. And after losing in the final of the Australian Open and getting to the semis of the French Open in 2011, he is once again expected to mount a proper challenge in SW19.
However, the pressure on the British number one is intense during Wimbledon fortnight and to complicate things for Murray he still faces a tough battle off the court as he struggles to win the hearts and minds of the Wimbledon faithful.
The Scotsman appears morose and monosyllabic in interviews, while his fiery on-court persona has not endeared him to the genteel British tennis supporter, who felt that Tim Henman's wimpy fist pumps were quite racy enough.
And he is still paying the price for an off-the-cuff comment about the English football team 2006. Back then he was asked who he would support during the World Cup and, after some banter with Henman, gave the time honoured Scottish response: "Whoever England are playing."
Five years later he is still explaining that comment away. But in a series of press interviews on the eve of this year's tournament he has painted himself as a regular guy.
In the Mail he explains how he used to own a Ferrari, but got rid of it because it was too showy. "I enjoyed driving the Ferrari, but I did feel like a prat when I got out of it. The funny thing is I'm quite a conservative driver and I never usually get honked, but anything I did, I was always getting beeped in the Ferrari," he confesses.
"I think I am a decent guy. I don't feel I am rude to people. I take time to sign autographs, pose for pictures, I have got good manners. But on the court I am fighting. That is my job, it is when I am at my most stressed and I sometimes do things that I shouldn't. You are likely to say something you don't mean or get angry and upset."
He tackles the subject of his coaches in the Guardian. He has parted company with two of them in the last year and has also experienced a startling slump in form after the Australian Open final at the start of the year.
Murray says that it has been hard to find the ruthless streak off the court. "The thing that was difficult, when you're 20 or 22, was telling someone who is 45, 50 that they are not doing their job properly," he says.
"Most people in a lot of sports have a manager telling them what to do and, if they don't listen to them, then it's not good. In tennis there needs to be much more communication with the coach and guys you are working with. I struggled a bit with that early in my career. You need to make decisions for yourself and be around people who are going to listen, I feel like I've got that just now."
Murray believes that he is better prepared for Wimbledon that ever before, and has even altered his diet to maximise his chances. "My training is more specific than it's ever been and I feel like I'm in a better place. I feel like I understand better now how to approach matches and big tournaments," he tells the BBC.
Whether that will be enough to get past Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic is another matter. ·
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