Why are we all suddenly so wound up about Scottish tennis player Andy Murray? Certainly, his recent phenomenal success has something to do with it. If we only consider the first month of this year, the highest ranked Brit has already beaten Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal here in the UAE to scoop the 2009 Capitala World Tennis Championship, and trounced Federer and Andy Roddick to claim the Qatar Open.
And while he may have just been pipped at the Aussie Open by Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, his 2008 triumphs (victories in Doha, Marseilles and Dubai; a place in the US Open final; world number-four status) should reassure fans that his gangly leaps up the rankings aren’t stopping any time soon.
His physical leaps, however, have become rather less gangly of late. Following a gruelling training and eating regime during the last off-season, the skinny youth who first appeared on the professional circuit in 2005 has been replaced by a tennis hulk. More visibly than any other player on court in recent history, the boy has become a man – right before our eyes.
‘I ate 6,000 calories a day, as I wanted to put on about five kilos of lean muscle,’ he tells us. We guess he achieved his aim. ‘I had to make sure I was eating the right things and following a tough physical programme.’ So, what kind of work out would we have to sweat through to turn this mound of food into an eight-pack? ‘I do weights and bike work, and core exercises with a swiss ball and elastics every day. I go to the track most days and run a series of 400m with little recovery time. I also play tennis football [which involves kicking a tennis ball] with my team every day.’
Andy Murray is beginning to sound like a machine. In fact, that’s the third trait that’s caught the world’s attention: his obsessive passion for competing, or to be specific, winning. According to one of his old coaches, as a junior he could pick out the strengths and weaknesses in all his male and female contemporaries, whether he’d played them or not.
Does Andy ever find his extreme competitiveness is a curse? ‘Not at all,’ he responds. ‘I am competitive in everything I do, whether it’s my Nintendo DS brain training, playing pool, playing tennis. Everything. I love competing.’ OK, we get it.
Interestingly, like Serena (overleaf), Andy had a sibling to compete with while growing up: Jamie Murray is now the UK’s number one in the ATP doubles rankings. Does he think he would have been as competitive if his bro’ didn’t play tennis too?
‘My brother is 15 months older than me, so he was always better at everything when we were growing up,’ he explains. ‘I always wanted to beat him and that gave me a lot of motivation to keep improving. I beat him at most things now, except golf, although he would probably disagree with that. And then I’d win that argument!’ Blimey.
With an attitude like that he may well, as many are touting, become the best tennis player in the world. Does that ever over-whelm him? ‘I’ve still got lots of things I want to improve in my game,’ he says. ‘I’ll keep working hard and hopefully achieve all of my goals one day.’
First on the list, no doubt, is acing the Dubai Tennis Champ-ionships, just like last year. ‘I have always played well in the Middle East. The hospitality is always phenomenal and there is a big expat community so the crowd gives me big support.’ And with that – it’s over to you.
Search YouTube with the terms ‘Andy Murray Keepy Uppy’ to see the man in action