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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
The making of Murray
By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Andy Murray
Murray has been without a coach since splitting with Mark Petchey
A year on from his Wimbledon breakthrough, the pressure on Andy Murray is reaching ever-higher levels and criticism is never far away.

Whether it is the 19-year-old's form, fitness or on-court demeanour, there have been plenty of people ready to give an opinion on Murray over the last 12 months.

Leon Smith is better placed than most to comment, the 30-year-old fellow Scot having coached Murray for six years until two years ago.

And Smith is keen to defend the British number two after some bad press surrounding the teenager's on-court outbursts.

"I think he's great fun but sometimes from the outside looking in I've heard people describe him as grumpy and moaning - he's not like that," Smith told BBC Sport.

"When you get to know him he's good fun and loves practical jokes. He's really competitive, that's clear.

"Even off the court whether you're playing table tennis, snooker, backgammon, he wants to win. That's what you want because he's a champion, a winner."

Smith, who is now an LTA national coach, has known Murray since he himself was a junior and the five-year-old Murray would take him on at short tennis.

"He would play non-stop and he was always good," said Smith.

It's quite easy to take a pot-shot at him but the press need Andy Murray around

Leon Smith
"At eight years old he was winning national level events in Britain at under-10, so he was two years ahead of the game. He has always had that winning mentality."

Smith officially took over coaching duties when Murray was 11 years old and remained in position even when his charge went to the Sanchez Casal academy in Barcelona aged 15.

He describes Murray's decision, aged 17, to end their working partnership as "time to move on, and I think it was right for him".

Since then, Murray has worked with Pato Alvarez and, until April, Mark Petchey, and the Scot now looks close to naming a new coach, possibly Brad Gilbert.

And Smith believes the national press should get behind Murray - for their own sake.

"It's quite easy to take a pot-shot at him but the press need Andy Murray around," said Smith.

"If there's no Andy Murray, and Tim and Greg retire, there's a lot of people going to be out of work because there's simply not a big enough market in British tennis if there's no-one in the top 100.

"So I think it's important everyone gets behind him, wants him to succeed and is patient with him because he's young and he's not a Nadal.

"People forget that Nadal, when he first broke into the top 50, stayed there for a full year before making the next jump.

"Andy's still well on course for becoming top 10 in the world - he's hit every target so far."

Meanwhile, the search goes on for the young British players who will follow in Murray's footsteps.

With the LTA set to unveil a state-of-the-art 39m national tennis centre next year, Smith points out that top-quality international players must be attracted to use the facility and so inspire British juniors.

And, if needs be, he would be happy to see more British youngsters follow Murray's example and learn their trade on foreign soil.

"We need to create the buzzing, thriving environments that we don't have at the moment," he said.

"In the meantime, if someone's got good ability and needs to go to Spain or the Bollittieri academy, we should send them there.

"There are maybe four, five good British juniors at the moment but it's now a question of learning from what we did with Andy, who's the only example we have right now."


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