Andy Murray thanked wife Kim for refusing to tell him his time was up in moments of self-doubt last year after he scored a goal. the big win he aspired to after his hip surgery.
The end of last season was especially bleak as Murray continued to suffer from debilitating cramps. Undermining his lack of stamina, he struggled to stack back-to-back victories and ended the year with an ugly loss to Gilles Simon, the man he dominated in his prime.
Murray said Tuesday night that it would have been easy for Kim to suggest that he drop the entire project at that point. But instead, she boosted his confidence and encouraged him to dig deeper.
“My wife has been incredibly supportive,” Murray told reporters in Melbourne. “She helped me a lot, because I would have understood if she had turned around and said to me – considering the tennis I played at the end of last year, when I didn’t have much success – “Look, go home, we don’t need more to do this.” But she still believes in me.”
Murray praised his entire team, which includes his coach Ivan Lendl, for staying true during those famine months last year. But he also stressed that he must ultimately remain committed to the grand project.
“I surround myself with people I trust and believe in and listen to what they have to say,” Murray said. “They all play a role for me, but it would be pretty easy for me to lose faith in myself and stop motivating myself. At this point in my career, that has to come from me.”
During the off-season, Murray’s commitment to self-improvement manifested itself in an intense training block in Florida. For three weeks in December, he went into a tennis version of “goblin mode,” doing nothing but training, eating, and sleeping.
This violent effort was the only way to resolve these spasms. And the medicine must have worked. Murray completed his 4-hour, 49-minute marathon against Matteo Berrettini without even needing a restroom break, let alone a visit from a coach.
“In those weeks, I lived a pretty simple life,” Murray explained of his retreat near a typical American country club in Boca Raton. “I stayed in a house that was a maximum of two minutes from the court where we practiced every day.
“I just got up at the same time in the morning, had coffee, went down to the training courts, spent two and a half, three hours on the court, had lunch, and then went to the gym in the gym. after lunch, and sometimes I return to the court again.
“I had very, very few distractions. I was totally focused on training and tennis, what I needed to do to get better. This is something I will definitely be doing from time to time during the rest of this year to make sure I dedicate enough time to hard work and improve my game.”
For all the obvious value of intense training blocks, they are difficult to fit into the hustle and bustle of the tour. However, we could potentially see Murray retire from some tournaments this year – likely during clay court play, which is his least favorite part of the season – to boost his stamina and improve his skills.
His shots against Berrettini were the cleanest we’ve seen from him since he suffered a hip injury six years ago, and his clear tactical thinking stemmed from palpable confidence in every aspect of his game.
Dan Evans – Britain’s No. 2 who followed the action from the gaming floor – had a hunch that good things might be around the corner after he and Murray exchanged messages last week.
“He’s pretty negative,” Evans said of Murray’s general demeanor and tendency to be hard on himself. “Last week he wrote: “Yes, [I’ve done] good job. He obviously feels like he’s good at hitting the ball if he compliments himself.
“I think it’s amazing that he didn’t have seizures,” Evans added. “He clearly had a spasm problem and I think he will be happy that he played pre-season and did everything right. I mean, he always does that. Andy leaves no stone unturned.”
So what is the end goal? When he finished his duties at Melbourne Park, Murray was asked if this magnificent victory was worth all those years of hard work. He found the idea slightly ridiculous.
“No,” he replied. “I mean, if someone told me that you would put in all that effort just to win the first round of a slam against a top player, I would say, ‘Well, no. It’s amazing and I’m happy to be part of the match. But I believe I can give more.”