McEnroe and Wade, if you think I'm a drama queen, look at the pictures of the eight-inch needle stuck in my back
21:17 GMT, 23 June 2012
Andy Murray's anger at the pain inflicted on him by a celebrity cast of critics has followed him from Paris to the gates of Wimbledon.
And after keeping his counsel, Murray finally snapped as he applied the finishing touches to his preparation for his seventh assault on the world's most prestigious tournament.
On Thursday night, after playing reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in his last public warm-up match, Murray issued an enraged challenge to his most vociferous detractors, who include past champions Virginia Wade, John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Boris Becker, as well as former world No 2 Tommy Haas.
Flat out: Andy Murray receives treatment for his injured back during his French Open victory over Jarko Nieminen
'If someone is going to say to me that my back injury is not genuine, they can come and see my reports from the doctors, they can see the pictures of a needle about eight inches long in my back,' said a seething Murray.
'I'm not accepting criticism any more, because it's not fair.'
Murray revealed he had received eight pain-killing injections in one day before the French Open began.
Hitting back at critics: Andy Murray voicing his concerns
While he declares himself to be fully
fit for Wimbledon, where he will play Nikolay Davydenko in the first
round on Tuesday, Murray is clearly embittered by the fall-out from his
appearance in Paris.
of his critics, in some shape or form, decried Murray for showing he was
experiencing pain in his back during his second-round match with Jarkko
Nieminen at the French Open. Wade, the last British Wimbledon singles
champion, called Murray a 'drama queen'.
In Germany, Haas delivered another
hurtful barb when he claimed the world No 4 had acquired a reputation
among the players for being melodramatic on court.
'People talk about it in the locker room,' said Haas.
Murray had previously refrained from defending himself but, clearly, his patience has been exhausted.
ball girls with pen and paper formed an orderly line to wait for
Murray, after he had showered and undergone physiotherapy following his
gentle work-out against Djokovic in Buckinghamshire, the British star
articulated his true feelings.
asked to comment on McEnroe's assertion that his back problems 'could
be more mental than physical', Murray said tartly: 'I think eight
pain-killing injections in your back before the French Open justifies a
'A lot of
people have suggested that it hasn't been genuine. I have a genuine back
problem, it's not a mental thing. It's something that is there.'
Murray has been informed the injections will have a lasting effect throughout Wimbledon. He declined to specify the exact nature or area of his injury.
'I'm not going into the details,' said Murray. 'It's a problem I had at the beginning of the year. I played through it for five months, but it just got worse. But it feels better since I had the injections.'
Rarely has Murray been so animated outside a tennis court, or felt compelled to defend himself with such vigour. His eyes burned with indignation.
He feels with justification that he is a role model, in so many ways.
He can sulk, he can infuriate, he can divide opinion.
But he can play. And he feels he has
done enough to have earned respect, on and off the court, which is why
the criticism in Paris bit deep.
told a TV audience that he thought Murray should quit mid-match; Becker
had warned beforehand that he should not even play if his back was
To Murray neither was an option.
trains hard, lives a quiet life with his long-time girlfriend Kim Sears
and has a coterie of employees from coach Ivan Lendl, an eigh-ttime
major champion, through fitness trainers Jez Green and Matt Little, to
physiotherapist Andy Ireland, all being paid to make him become the best
he can be.
undeniably the fourth best player in the world. Yet still Murray seems
unable to make ground on the three ranked ahead of him: Djokovic, Rafael
Nadal and Roger Federer.
'Everyone was saying after Australia that the gap, from me to the top three, had changed,' said Murray.
'Then, when I didn't make the semis at the French Open, they said it had changed back again. To me, things change in tennis on a weekly basis. If I was to win Wimbledon everyone would say, “There's no gap any more”. It's all about how you perform in the big competitions. We'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks.'
Lendl is with him to give an edge missing in the past. The 52-year-old Czech-American never won Wimbledon, but his worth to Murray is calculated through his iron-hard attention to discipline and the values he demands, as Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion, who will be a member of the BBC team covering the Championships, explains.
'Lendl was the first real professional in the tennis world. He left no stone unturned to become a better player. He was the first one with a conditioning coach, the first to have a regimented diet, the first with a separate racket stringer and the first with his own physio. Lendl asked himself how could he become better by not only practising more than the rest of us.
'Having Ivan around him, Andy will understand better about professionalism, discipline, preparation and putting yourself in the best position to win.
'You have to have the highest respect for Ivan. If you have someone that good on your side, you cannot mess around. And maybe there is an extra motivation, an extra drive for both men as neither has won at Wimbledon.
'You expect Andy to be around far into the second week, then it takes a little bit of courage, a little bit of luck and great tennis to go all the way. He's doing everything in his power to give himself his best chance of winning.'
Murray will walk through the gates of the All England Club believing he can end the 76-year wait to anoint a British champion in succession to Fred Perry.
'I have no other choice,' said Murray. 'There's not much point in playing if I didn't think I could win.'
But Murray is a realist, not a dreamer.
'When I finish my career, if I haven't won a Slam, maybe it will annoy me,' he said.
'Or maybe my achievements will be seen as being even better because I've played against some of the greatest of all time.'