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The maturing of Andy Murray

Andy Murray and the people around him
Murray's off-court distractions have helped to improve his focus on court

By Paul Birch and Pranav Soneji

Andy Murray finds himself in his first Grand Slam quarter-final when he plays world number two Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

History is against the Scot - Murray has never beaten the Spaniard in their three previous encounters.

However, this is Wimbledon - and a nation expects yet another special performance from its 21-year-old tyro.

Former British number one Greg Rusedski tells BBC Sport about Murray's recent progress and how he can beat Nadal for the first time.

MURRAY'S STRENGTH

When Murray flexed his bicep after his marathon five-set victory against Richard Gasquet on Monday night, it wasn't to show he can outmuscule the powerful Nadal.

The gesture was for his two physical trainers Matt Little and Jez Green, who have helped him become one of the fittest players in tennis.

Andy Murray displays his biceps against Richard Gasquet
Murray's biceps will be tested against Nadal

And according to Rusedski, his new-found physical strength has helped fortify his mental game too.

"The fitter you are, the mentally stronger you are and the combination of the two is very good," he said.

"The true test will be to see how he bounces back from his match with Gasquet when he takes on Nadal - that's when we will see where his fitness really is at.

"You can get through a five-set match on adrenaline and during the first week he only lost one set and was very comfortable. So he is definitely stronger, but we will find out to what extent against Nadal."

IMPROVED ATTITUDE

The tantrums and histrionics of the enfant terrible of two years ago have long gone. Instead, Murray has become a more focused and mature player since entering the world's top 10 at the end of last year.

"He's not swearing, he's not throwing his racquet and that's what he has to do," said Rusedski.

"If you're going to behave like that you're not going to get through the match against the big players - you don't see Federer or Nadal doing that.

"Yes, players do it once in a while, but Murray seems to have cut it out and that shows he is maturing.

"He has been working with a sports psychologist for a while as well so a combination of a few things has helped him no end.

"You can have someone to talk to you and tell you how to behave on court, but you have to make the choice to improve yourself and that's what he has done."

TEAM MURRAY

When Murray split with American coach Brad Gilbert - who had previously overseen the development of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick - in November 2007, he opted for a team of experts around him rather than one outright authority figure.

While Little and Green have shaped Murray's lean and muscular figure, former British Davis Cup player Miles Maclagan has taken care of coaching matters, along with input from former French Open champion Alex Corretja and Canadian Louis Cayer.

Who are Team Murray?
Judy Murray: Mother/mentor
Miles Maclagan: Coach
Jez Green: Physical conditioner
Matt Little: Physical trainer
Andy Ireland: Physiotherapist
Louis Cayer: Consultant
Alex Corretja: Clay-court consultant
Patricio Apey: Agent

Although Rusedski has questioned Murray's decision not to replace Gilbert, he believes "Team Murray" is working well.

"Murray is happy with his team and for him that might be the winning formula," said Rusedski. "He enjoys the environment of having so many people around him with different personalities.

"The question is, how much is he going to listen to a coach? You hire the likes of Gilbert for their strategy, because of their knowledge of how to play certain points, knowing what the percentages are and what sort of patterns your opponents play against.

"That's why if I was Murray I would have hired a top coach, but what he is doing right now is working and if you're happy that's the most important thing."

RELAXING OFF-COURT

Murray admitted he spent too much time obsessing about his next opponent rather than relaxing away from court.

However, he now has a stable London base after buying a flat in the capital, as well as Maggie, his 12-week-old border terrier puppy, who has helped to take his mind off tennis matters.

"I think he is enjoying it all a bit more, he says he isn't watching as much tennis, he is getting away from the game and it's always good to have a good balance in your life and that's paying dividends for him right now," said Rusedski.

"He seems quite relaxed and his goal is to win the tournament and that's what you want to hear from players."

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Despite his phenomenal fitness and stamina, Murray still needs to address deficiencies in his all-round game, according to Rusedski.

"For me, the most important thing I would like to see him work on is his first serve and achieving a higher percentage, as well as having more variety on it," he said.

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"He needs more spin on it because it is very flat, so flat serves against guys who return well aren't that effective.

"It needs to have more movement, more slice and more kick. Also his second serve is a little bit too slow, it sits up and he needs to be a little bit more aggressive on it.

"His drop shot is a great shot, but choosing the right moment when to use it is crucial. Those are the areas he needs to work on technically."

CAN HE BEAT RAFAEL NADAL?

Murray came mighty close to defeating Nadal in the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne in January 2007, going down in another five-set marathon match.

He said that performance at the Rod Laver Stadium was the best match he had played up until Wimbledon, so Murray knows he has the ability to push the 22-year-old to his very limits.

Rafael Nadal receives treatment for a knee injury
Nadal's knee could pose problems for the Spaniard on Wednesday

And with Nadal nursing a knee injury from his last 16 win over Mikhail Youzhny, Murray could not pick a better time to play the Mallorcan in front of his home crowd.

"I watched Nadal's match and that injury he is playing down could be very serious," said Rusedski. "He wasn't moving as well as he normally does so I think that gives Andy a bit of chance now.

"Had he not had this injury, I would say Nadal would be very comfortable to win the match in three or four sets, but now it will be a fascinating encounter.

"Against Nadal his serve is going to be very important because he's not going to want Nadal taking control of rallies straight off that second serve.

"For me the keys are how quickly is Murray going to recover from a five-set match and the severity of Nadal's injury.

"Nadal will not tell you the truth whether it is as bad as it seems as a top player doesn't want to give his opponent any advantage."




see also
Does the crowd affect the result?
01 Jul 08 |  Magazine
Murray's magic third-set moment
01 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Henman on Murray
30 Jun 08 |  Tennis
BBC pundits on Andy Murray
30 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Gasquet v Murray as it happened
30 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Wimbledon photos
30 Jun 08 |  Tennis


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