Andy Murray talks about what he can learn from Federer, drawin inspiration from del Potro, planning to coming to net more frequently and much, much more. 

By James Pham
September 26, 2018

SHENZHEN, China — Five years ago almost to the day, Andy Murray found himself in an eerily similar position as he does now, coming back from surgery and not having won a tournament in over a year. Then he won in Shenzhen, fending off five match points in the championship match, sparking a resurgence which saw him hoist three trophies within a space of a few weeks.

Ahead of this week’s Shenzhen Open, Andy Murray sat down for a roundtable discussion with a small handful of journalists. This is what we learned:

He’s feeling 85-90% physically compared to his peak: “That’s from a physical perspective. I still need matches, tournaments and more training. This year has been a lot of starting, playing a couple of tournaments, and then stopping and resting and rehabbing. After New York, I didn’t hit a ball for a couple of weeks. Normally the breaks away from tennis wouldn’t have been as extended, so it’s been difficult to get into a rhythm. Hopefully by the beginning of next year, I’ll be back where I want to be.”

The successful comebacks of the other members of the Big 4 don’t really affect him. “Everyone’s situation is different. I’ve missed playing pretty much a whole year. If physically I get back to the level I want to, I believe my tennis will be good enough to compete for the big events. I don’t feel more pressure because of it. I haven’t really looked at those guys’ comebacks and gotten inspiration from it. Someone like a del Potro is probably a better example. He’s had big setbacks where he’s missed long periods of times, close to finishing his career and coming back to compete for the big events and now has a career high ranking. He’s a good one to look at.”

Murray’s in it for the love of the game. “The number one thing is health. If I feel healthy and feel comfortable on court and not in pain, I’ll be happy with whatever the outcome is. Winning is important but it’s not the only thing. Your quality of life and your enjoyment of doing your job [is important]. Over the last year, something I’ve learned is that your health is extremely important and that I play tennis because I enjoy it and I miss it and I love the sport. It isn’t solely to win Grand Slams.”

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Expect Murray to borrow a page from Federer’s playbook: “There are many mandatory tournaments we have to play, otherwise we get penalized with our rankings. Players have always played the schedule we’ve been told to play but now players are starting to understand that it’s actually smarter for your long-term health and your career to play when you’re physically ready rather than playing when you’re told that you have to play by the tour and its rules. Roger missed the clay court season the last two years and while that’s difficult for the tournaments, it’s better for tennis the longer Roger is playing. He’s doing the best thing for himself but long term, it’s good for tennis as well. I think players will begin doing that more and more.”

No excuses in 2019. “It’s been good for me to be back, playing and competing in tournaments again, to see exactly where my game and my body was at. I don’t want to have any excuses at the beginning of next year. This year I’ve been going into tournaments not quite ready and not certain about how I’m going to feel in the matches. I want to have that at the beginning of next year, knowing physically I’m going to be okay, that my tennis feels good, that I’m ready to compete for the whole 5, 6, 7 days of a tournament, not just show up and play three matches and not be able to finish the event.”

We may see more net play from Murray in 2019. “There are certain things you want to try to do as you get older, but the conditions at most tournaments are quite slow. Coming to net, shortening points, those are things I want to improve in. I’d like to come to net more, play more serve-and-volley, things like that. But you also need to maintain a winning strategy as well. I’ll try to make some improvements in my game in the off season for sure.”

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