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Jonny Marray ready for ATP World Tour Finals at London 02 Arena

Here's Jonny! British doubles star Marray ready for rare taste of the high life in London

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 30 October 2012


No place like home: Marray roars with delight on his way to winning the Wimbledon doubles title last summer

No place like home: Marray roars with delight on his way to winning the Wimbledon doubles last summer

The Ford Fiesta is still parked in the garage and the 130,000 prize is still in the bank – becoming the most unlikely Wimbledon champion in years has yet to prove a material life-changer for Jonny Marray.

As if to prove the fact, he could be found plying his doubles trade in the converted ice rink that is used as the smallest court inside the tired old Palais de Bercy where, in front of some 150 diehard spectators, he and Paul Hanley reached the second round of the Paris Masters.

It will all be different next week at London’s O2 Arena when he teams up at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals alongside Frederik Nielsen, with whom he created one of the year's great sporting fairytales, even by the standards of the headiest summer.

The 17,000-strong crowds will be bigger than those of the Centre Court which saw them carry off the All England Club title, having barely played together previously and only entered courtesy of a wildcard.

That success has gained the 31-year-old from Sheffield entry to the elite season-end jamboree for the year’s top eight, and it will be only the second time he has set foot inside the old Millennium Dome.

‘Two years ago I had to attend an educational course for ATP players in London and we got taken along to a session at the O2, but that’s my only experience of it. Having felt the atmosphere, I can’t wait,’ he said, after excelling in a 7-5, 6-1 win over top Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer.

It will be a rare brush with the high life for the resolutely down-to-earth Marray, who has hardly felt the impact of sudden fame because he has barely been in the UK since July.

Champions: Nielsen and Marray celebrates their memorable victory in SW19

Champions: Nielsen and Marray celebrates their memorable victory in SW19

‘One nice thing was that Freddie
(with whom he shares a passion for Liverpool FC) and I had pieces done
on us in the Anfield programme and official magazine. But I haven’t had a
chance to see them this season because I’ve been away. They are playing
at Chelsea a week on Sunday so depending on how things go we might be
able to get along.

‘I get recognised a bit since Wimbledon but I haven’t been at home much. The money is still in the bank but once this season is over I’ll sit down with someone knowledgeable and decide what to do with it.

‘I haven’t had a financial cushion before with the level I’ve been at in my career so that is all a bit new. As for the Fiesta, I don’t really see much point changing because I don’t get to drive much anyway.’

The most pressing thing on his mind is trying to find a regular partner for next year as Nielsen, whom he first met playing German Bundesliga club tennis in Hamburg, has told him he wants to concentrate on his singles career in 2013.

Net gains: Marray's touch around the net has seen him excel in doubles

Net gains: Marray's touch around the net has seen him excel in doubles

It is the time of year when there is much horsetrading done in the two-player code and Marray, ranked 22, really needs to find someone inside the top 35 to ensure they gain entry to the biggest tournaments. He said: ‘I’ve spoken to a few people and I’m hoping to get something sorted out because next week is the last time I will play with Freddie as a regular partner. I quite understand the decision he has made.’

What Marray’s new team-mate will get is his major attribute of being one of the sweetest volleyers of a tennis ball you will see. His touch around the net was always known within the small parish of British tennis but only this year has it fully flowered.

‘Twelve months ago if you’d told me this was going to happen I’d have been both surprised and very happy,’ he said. ‘It helped seeing a few other British lads doing well in doubles (such as the world’s No 10 pairing Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins) and it made me think I could push on from the level I had been at for so long.’

So next week he will be among the elite, such as his near namesake Andy Murray, although even then a certain apartheid exists with doubles players in a communal dressing room, while the eight singles stars get private quarters.

Murray plays his opening match at the Paris Masters on Wednesday, against France’s world No 64 Paul-Henri Mathieu.

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke faces alleged violent car-jacking claims

New Villa frontman Benteke fights to clear his name after car-jacking claims

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UPDATED:

10:06 GMT, 10 September 2012

Aston Villa's summer signing Christian Benteke is fighting to clear his name after allegations he was involved in a violent car-jacking in his native Belgium.

The Belgian international striker, who joined on a 7m deal from Genk this summer, and two friends were accused of brutally beating a motorist and making off in his Volkswagen Polo car.

The 21-year-old Congolese-born player was arrested at the scene in Liege, Belgium, held overnight and brought before the Palais de Justice, accused of taking part in the car-jacking, the Birmingham Mail reported.

'Dream move': Christian Benteke, a Belgian international striker, joined Aston Villa on transfer deadline day

'Dream move': Christian Benteke, a Belgian international striker, joined Aston Villa on transfer deadline day

All three men were later released and both Genk and Villa rushed to issue statements denying the charges.

The Belgian club said that Benteke was interviewed by police merely as a witness to the attack, which happened last November.

Villa insisted that other witnesses had verified Benteke played no part in the car-jacking.

A club statement read: 'Christian and his legal team have co-operated with the investigation and witnesses confirmed he took no part in the matters alleged.'

Goal getter: Benteke in action for his former club Genk, where he had a prolific goalscoring record in the Belgian top flight

Goal getter: Benteke in action for his former club Genk, where he had a prolific goalscoring record in the Belgian top flight

Belgian sports journalist Jan Haupsie reported the two men, aged 23 and 24, claim they had paid the victim 6000 euros a day earlier for another car, a Volkswagen Golf, which later showed up on police records as stolen.

Haupsie said: 'The men were stopped in Liege by police who confiscated the car and told them it had been stolen on October 14 from an address in Paris.

'The next day the two men called up their friend, Christian, and asked him for a lift so that they could confront the seller, who was referred to in court as Kevin.'

Benteke completed his 'dream move' to Villa on transfer deadline day, signing a four-year deal believed to be worth around 7m.

The move went through after Genk had rejected two bids and at one point Benteke had threatened to sue the club if they didn't sanction his move.

Villa manager Paul Lambert felt the player was the perfect partner for his other strikers, Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

After his move went through, Benteke told Sky Sports News: 'I am still young and I have realised my dream. My dream was to come here and I am very happy.

'I hope I will be a success. I am motivated.

'It was difficult and I say thank you to Genk and everyone there. I will go forward for a new challenge.

'I think every player wants to come to the Premier League and I am very happy.'

He scored 19 times in 37 league appearances for Genk last season and has five senior Belgium caps.