Murray finds balance between life and tennis future

Tennis

LONDON — It is about half an hour by public transportation from London’s O2, the venue for this week’s ATP Finals, to Sloane Square in trendy central London. For many years, Andy Murray would have been at the O2 in mid-November, battling it out in the season-ending event, a title he won in 2016. On Tuesday, though, he was in the latter, launching a new range of clothing with one of his sponsors, and seemingly, just fine about it all.

“I actually haven’t watched a ball,” he said with a smile.

That might change as the week goes on, for Murray is as much a tennis addict as any of the top players. But while Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal scrap it out to be world No. 1 at the end of the year, the 32-year-old Murray has been focusing on family, fresh from the birth of his third child, and first son, Teddy.

“It’s been good,” he told a small group of reporters. “It’s just busy. We’ve got three [children] under 4 now, and two dogs, so you’ve got to keep an eye out all the time, but it’s been good, sleeping fine. Everyone’s healthy.”

Murray said his wife, Kim, chose the name Teddy, but the middle name is Barron just like Murray himself.

“I don’t actually love the name,” he said. “[But] my Dad’s middle name was Barron, his dad was Barron, my granddad’s dad [was Barron] so I kept that. But Teddy, my wife liked that so she chose it.”

Being at home with the children has been hugely fulfilling for Murray, though the Scot revealed that he had actually put on weight.

“I didn’t do anything for 12 days, literally nothing,” he said. “Got up to my heaviest weight in my career probably.

“Evenings were the issue, when the newborn has been going to bed at 7 p.m., sleeping for a three-hour period. My wife would sleep upstairs and get a period of good sleep in before the baby would wake up. I’d be on my own downstairs and [there were] chocolate biscuits and stuff. There was Halloween and my second daughter’s birthday party, then also my sister-in-law had a birthday so there was lots of cake. Junk and no training is not a good combination.”

He looked back in perfect shape again Tuesday. And since he returned to the ATP Tour in June after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in February, there has been a lightness about him, a greater perspective. Even if the old intensity is clear to see on court, with his ranting toward his box, off the court he seems to be going a little easier on himself.

It’s that intensity that helped him to the top of the game. He has won three Grand Slam titles, two Olympic gold medals in singles, reached world No. 1, helped Britain to unlikely Davis Cup glory crown and picked up 46 career titles.

The most recent of those, which came just last month in Antwerp, Belgium, was surely one of the sweetest of all. It was his first title since his comeback, a return few people thought possible after his emotional departure from the Australian Open in January.

Murray will be back in action next week in the Davis Cup in Madrid, leading a Britain team he says he believes has a good chance to at least progress from the group stages to the knockout phase. But Murray is looking further ahead to the Australian Open, his first Grand Slam singles event since the surgery.

“I’m not worried from the hip’s perspective as I’ve had zero issues with it so far, so I don’t anticipate that playing an extra 45 minutes or an hour will be bad for my hip,” he said.

“The rest of my body, how that responds, I’ll see when I’m out there. My physio has always been more positive about me playing Grand Slams than playing a [regular] tournament when you play five days in a row.

“She loves the fact that there’s a day off to rest and actually recover and your body gets a chance to rest up before the next match. Sometimes, like in Antwerp where you’re playing back-to-back days, there’s no chance to do that so I guess I’ll see how it responds when I’m over there. I wouldn’t anticipate I’d be playing seven best-of-five matches out there, like maybe previously would have been my expectation.”

As he looks forward to 2020, just being able to play at a high level seems to be making him happy.

“I would want to be healthy,” he said. “I think over the last six to nine months, [I have realized] what really is important. You can remember why I started playing tennis in the first place and what the reasons for that were. I played tennis as a kid and through my professional career, and I did it because I really loved playing. Being healthy allows me to do that.

“It’s nice to be able to win big competitions and have a high ranking and stuff. That’s great but actually the reason why I’m playing is because I love it, and I need to remember that. So, if I’m 30 in the world or 70 in the world but if I’m still enjoying it and still enjoying the preparations and training and all that stuff and I feel competitive then that would be success for me.”

Murray will be smarter and more adaptable about his schedule. Having played more than 12 years on the tour, being over 30 and with more than 600 matches under his belt, he no longer has to play the requisite eight of nine Masters 1000s, which gives him flexibility.

“I think my body showed I’m going to be able to play at a high level, [but] that’s where I need to be smart with my scheduling and the [number] of tournaments that I play. I’m not going to be looking at my schedule and my tournament year [a year ahead] anymore. I’m going to do it very differently.”

The family might travel to some of the tournaments close to home, but Murray doesn’t believe long-haul trips are in everyone’s best interest. He plans to begin a shorter than usual training block in Florida in early December and will then spend Christmas in Scotland before heading to Australia.

“I’m doing that differently in terms of a period of days off in a row, which I wouldn’t have done beforehand,” he said. “I’m starting to try to do that a bit more, [and] because I am doing that, I need to be watching what I eat a bit better.

Asked if he is worried about being overweight in retirement, Murray laughed.

“He’ll probably kill me for saying this, but I always said I don’t want to end up with what happened to Ivan [Lendl, his former coach],” Murray said. “I know if you [write that] I’ll get a message from him tomorrow. When he was playing he was in great shape and very thin. And when he stopped, things went south, so I need to avoid that.”

Murray is happy, motivated, dedicated and healthy, a sharp contrast to where he was 10 months ago. If he can just avoid those chocolate biscuits, he should be OK.

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