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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Murray stays calm in face of hype

Photo Titled Andy Murray at full stretch
Andy Murray dives for the ball during his quarter-final match against Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Andy Murray’s fanbase is growing, to judge by his celebrity correspondence. After receiving goodwill messages from the Queen and Sir Sean Connery in the last few days, this morning brought a handwritten good luck note from Sir Cliff Richard for the number three seed. And it clearly did the trick, judging by his comprehensive quarter-final victory over former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero.

“The second and first sets were very good,” Murray said afterwards. “The first set I served very well but made quite a lot of mistakes from the back. Hit the ball pretty short. Not that many long rallies today, which was nice. The court was playing quickly so I got a lot of free points on my serve. In the second I lost one point from 1-3 deuce. Started to serve better, hitting my returns a lot harder, starting to read his serve better.”

For his part, Ferrero was chiefly struck by the sheer speed of that second set turnaround.

“In 10 minutes he beat me,” said the Spaniard. “Everything happened so fast in the second set. At two sets to love, it was difficult for me to come back. Physically I felt tired at the end. He seemed a little bit tired at the beginning after long rallies but he handled it very well. He was very aggressive. He’s serving very well, moving well on the grass. So he could win the title, yes.”

Gunning for his first Slam crown, on domestic soil to boot, Murray is naturally the subject of a lot of media excitement. But he is sanguine about it.

“The hype doesn’t make any difference to the way you perform,” he shrugged. “If you work in the media and spend your whole time reading the papers, watching everything on the TV, everything getting said on the radio, then you get caught up in that. But if you ignore it, you don’t realise it’s happening. So I just stay away from it.”

And that is probably why he had a sensible answer when asked if he feels “unstoppable” now.

“No,” said Murray flatly. “I understand I can lose the next match if I don’t play my best. That’s been one of the things that I’ve learned, and it’s made a huge difference to me over the last year or so. I feel confident because I’ve won a lot of matches on grass. But every day I know I’m going to have to perform well, and that gets the nerves and adrenaline going and makes me play better.”

He feels there are similarities whether he plays Andy Roddick or Lleyton Hewitt in his semi-final. (Their quarter-final was incomplete at the time of Murray’s press conference.)

“Roddick is one of the best servers in the game, while Hewitt is one of the best returners,” he observed. “So against Roddick I’ll need to return very well, and against Hewitt it’s more important that I serve well. But both are obviously very tough. Hewitt’s won here. Roddick’s made two finals. Both have been number one in the world and both are Grand Slam champions. Both are going to be tough.”

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