Tag Archives: specimen

Andy Murray pictures show added muscle ahead of Australian Open 2013

Muscle-bound Murray shows off bulked-up frame ahead of latest shot at Aussie Open

has left him hungry for more.

Murray enjoyed a breakthrough season last year when he became the first British male to win a grand slam in 76 years with his success at the US Open, while he was also crowned Olympic champion during a fairytale summer for the Scot.

The world No 3 is not ready to settle for that, though, and has spoken of his determination to keep on improving and adding to his title collection.

Andy Murray

Murray looks on during practice ahead of the Australian Open

Watch out, Australia: Andy Murray practices serving as coach Ivan Lendl looks on at Melbourne Park

Murray serves as his coach Ivan Lendl watches on during practice at Melbourne Park

Focused: Murray has his sights set on the Australian Open, which begins next Monday

Murray serves as his coach Ivan Lendl watches on during practice at Melbourne Park

Murray once again spent December building his fitness at a gruelling training camp in Miami before flying home briefly for Christmas and then on to Australia via the Middle East. While in Florida, Murray worked hard on his physical strength, doubling his weekly weightlifting sessions from two to four, in a bid to boost his shot power.

The result is an added three pounds of muscle to his already impressive frame. And, judging by the impressive pictures taken of the Scot in practice in Melbourne today, he is in peak physical condition ahead of his latest tilt at the year's opening grand slam title.

Speaking ahead of the upcoming Australian Open, where the 25-year-old will aim to improve on runners-up finishes in 2010 and 2011, Murray told the Daily Telegraph: 'The US Open and the Olympics made me extremely motivated.

'It wasn’t a case of, “Oh, everything’s done now”. It’s taken a long time to get there and to win those sorts of events.

Murray has been hard at work building his fitness over the winter

Murray has been hard at work building his fitness over the winter

What a specimen: Murray has been hard at work building his fitness during the break over the winter

Murray has been hard at work building his fitness over the winter

'I know the feeling when you do win them now and it’s worth all of the work that you put in.'

Prior to his success at Flushing Meadows, Murray had won 22 singles titles but had never managed to go all the way in a grand slam tournament, tasting defeat in four finals and reaching numerous semi-finals.

He added: 'In the past, there were loads and loads of questions. I wasn’t physically strong enough. I wasn’t mentally strong enough. I didn’t listen to my coaches. I was spoilt. Whatever it was, none of that really bothers me any more.

'I’m just looking for ways to keep improving.'

Although Murray has been working hard on the physical side of his game, he is adamant that the real difference between victory and defeat comes from brains, not brawn.

The Scot's love of boxing is well known – he counts David Haye as a close friend – so he was thrilled to meet former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis while filming for the BBC's SPOTY programme, where the pair talked training – and winning.

'Heavyweight boxing is the pinnacle of sport really, especially when he (Lewis) was fighting,' said Murray. 'So to get to pick his brains about certain things was nice.

'I asked a lot of questions about current boxers and how you train. He was saying boxing is 70 per cent mental, 30 per cent physical in the actual talent you need, and I think that applies to a lot of sports.

'The difference in how guys hit a ball is not that huge, but it’s about how you deal with the pressure moments and who can hold their nerve.

'When you get towards the end of sets, some guys make more mistakes than others.'

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES…

Murray at Melbourne Park last year

Murray flexes his muscles back in 2009

Murray's torso is noticeably less ripped during practice at Melbourne Park last year (left) while, despite his best Incredible Hulk impression, his still-impressive physique from 2009 (right) is not as muscular as today

Nick Powell can replace Paul Scholes, says Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson

Powell is ready made Scholes replacement, says United boss Sir Alex

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UPDATED:

13:53 GMT, 16 September 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson is tipping Nick Powell to eventually replace Paul Scholes at Manchester United.

Powell is presently 699 United appearances and 154 goals behind Scholes following his scoring debut in a 4-0 win over Wigan.

Yet in pure age terms, he is actually in front of the legendary midfielder.
Scholes was approaching his 20th birthday when he made his first-team debut for the Red Devils.

New kid on the block: Powell scored on his debut for United

New kid on the block: Powell scored on his debut for United

It was an eye-catching start all right, netting twice in a League Cup tie at Port Vale to launch one of the most illustrious careers English football has ever known.

Powell was not even born at the time. But already the teenager shares a couple of traits with his new team-mate.

His superb goal means the 18-year-old's debut will be remembered. And, just like Scholes, he is not comfortable talking to the media. Not that Ferguson is fussed about that.

'Nick Powell is going to be a really good player,' he said. 'He has a great temperament, is two-footed and quick. He is a good physical specimen and has terrific vision.

'We hope Powell fills Paul Scholes' boots. For an 18-year-old boy it has been a terrific day.'

Although he accepted an invitation to speak to Manchester United's own TV channel after the game, not even MUTV could put Powell at ease as the former Crewe man tiptoed into the limelight.

'When I first came out onto the pitch, the crowd scared me a little bit,' he said.

'I am only used to 5,000 people every now and then. It is a great feeling but I will keep myself on the ground.'

Powell did admit he is learning a great deal from training alongside Scholes.

'It is unbelievable. He has so much experience,' he said. 'He came off when I came on but it was great to be on the pitch with the lot of them, especially Scholes making his 700th appearance for United.'

Scholes prodded United in front at the start of the second half, with Javier Hernandez and another debutant Alexander Buttner also on target before Powell struck.

Evergreen: Veteran Scholes was on the scoresheet again for United

Evergreen: Veteran Scholes was on the scoresheet again for United

Evergreen: Veteran Scholes was on the scoresheet again for United

Latics boss Roberto Martinez reacted angrily after the match, claiming – perhaps with some justification – that Danny Welbeck had dived to win United an early penalty and should later have been sent off for a rash tackle on Franco di Santo.

That pales into insignificance, though, against the serious potential for trouble at Anfield next Sunday when United become the first visitors to Liverpool since this week's damning judgement on Hillsborough.

The deaths of 96 supporters at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989 has been used as a baiting tool by United fans, who had been taunted for years about the Munich tragedy, in which eight of their own players were amongst the 21 who lost their lives.

Previously, Ferguson has written to supporters urging them to moderate their behaviour and spoke at length about the common threads that unite England's two most successful clubs on Friday.

However, although it was sung only once, a clearly inflammatory song was aired by a section of the Stretford End yesterday, prompting an immediate reaction from both club and fans' groups.

A United spokesperson said the club 'deplore' such songs.

In a statement, United said: 'The manager has made the club's position very clear on this matter. It is now up to the fans to respect that.'

The fear is that in a powder keg atmosphere, made worse by last season's racism row involving Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, will not take much to spill over into something particularly distasteful.

Stroll in the Park: United were comfortable victors over Wigan - new boy Buttner was in the goals too

Stroll in the Park: United were comfortable victors over Wigan – new boy Buttner was in the goals too

Stroll in the Park: United were comfortable victors over Wigan - new boy Buttner was in the goals too

It has led to the Manchester United Supporters Trust to take the unusual step of appealing for calm.

'Following this week's developments and release of revelatory information on the Hillsborough tragedy, MUST wishes to make it absolutely clear that just as we condemn chants mocking the Munich air disaster we also condemn any chants relating to Hillsborough or indeed any other human tragedy,' said chief executive Duncan Drasdo.

'We did hear the usual anti-Liverpool chants at the match today but we're pleased to say there was nothing that was specifically referencing Hillsborough.

'Any attempt to suggest otherwise is irresponsible given the forthcoming fixture between the clubs and furthermore risks needlessly upsetting the bereaved families further at a time when they are understandably trying to find closure.

'We enjoy a fierce rivalry but these issues transcend that rivalry. We agree 100 per cent with the statement made by Sir Alex Ferguson – this is the time for supporters of these two great clubs to represent their clubs with the integrity and honour that our glorious history demands.'

Frankel is not as good as Brigadier Gerard – Joe Mercer

Exclusive: Frankel's a major star… but he's no Brigadier

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 21 August 2012

It’s some admission from a man whose opinion should be respected — if Frankel can win the Juddmonte International Stakes at York on his first race over 10 furlongs, he can justifiably be rated the equal of the great Brigadier Gerard.

Equal, mind. Not better.

In truth, nothing on four legs will ever rate higher with former jockey Joe Mercer than the 1970s icon he still calls the ‘Big Fella’, who galloped into racing folklore by carrying him to victory in 17 of his 18 races.

Stunning: The unbeaten Frankel is rated the best racehorse of all time

Stunning: The unbeaten Frankel is rated the best racehorse of all time

‘You earned your plaudits more in the old days,’ says Mercer, whose career brought him close to 3,000 winners and eight British Classics.

‘Maybe Frankel is the greatest at the present and the best for 20 years, but not the best ever. He has not proved it yet. He’s as good as The Brigadier but not the greatest ever as they classify him. That’s OTT.

‘Everybody asks how Brigadier Gerard and Frankel compare and last year, for a bit of fun, I said he would have made a good lead horse for The Brigadier, who achieved so much in his lifetime it was amazing.

‘He had ability and courage and a lot of both. He was a big, handsome horse and his racing weight never changed from two to three to four years old. He was a perfect physical specimen and his attitude was that he knew it.

‘It’s the horses who finish behind you that count. Frankel has had the same horse (Excelebration) behind him four times. He’s a fabulous horse, who would have probably been the best miler in the world if Frankel hadn’t been around.

One of the best: Brigadier Gerard won the 2000 Guineas in 1971

One of the best: Brigadier Gerard won the 2000 Guineas in 1971

‘The ones that Brigadier Gerard beat
came out and won everything — they were horses like Mill Reef, who went
on to be a champion; Faraway Sun, who was a good French horse he beat
five lengths in the Sussex Stakes, wasn’t beaten again that season.’

A shoulder problem might be hindering his golf swing, but at 77, Mercer still cuts the same dapper figure as in 1979 when, as stable jockey to Frankel’s trainer Sir Henry Cecil, he was champion jockey. The pipe, which earned his nickname Smokin’ Joe, is by his side and Mercer’s admiration of Cecil’s colt is genuine, not grudging.

But looking at The Brigadier’s record, even the fully paid-up members of the Frankel fan club must respect his verdict.

Timeform rate Frankel — who is estimated to be worth 100million and who may run only once more after Wednesday’s race — the best horse they have ever assessed, three pounds better than Dick Hern-trained Brigadier Gerard, who is equal third-best on their all-time chart.

In the know: Joe Mercer

In the know: Joe Mercer

There are close parallels between the two. Frankel was a devastating six-length winner of last year’s 2,000 Guineas and The Brigadier emerged on top in one of the best runnings of the race in 1971, beating subsequent Arc and Derby hero Mill Reef, plus outstanding French colt My Swallow. Both were career-defining victories.

‘I had never been so confident before a race, particularly when Duration won the apprentice race beforehand,’ says Mercer.

‘He was one of the horses Brigadier Gerard had been working with and he’d been slaughtering him.

‘We knew we had a good horse the
first time he ever ran, at Newbury. He was last with two furlongs to go
and finished 10 lengths in front of them.’

Both
horses also had scares in Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes,
Frankel hanging on by three-quarters of a length from Zoffany after an
injudicious mid-race move by his jockey Tom Queally; Mercer blamed
himself for Brigadier Gerard’s narrow success from Sparkler.

Mercer said: ‘At Ascot last year, my
heart was in my mouth. I could have killed the jockey — he went three
furlongs from home. Frankel lasted out but only just. That’s guts.

‘The
Brigadier only beat Sparkler a head in the St James’s Palace and I
blamed myself because I used to ride him in all his work and I don’t
think I did enough with him.’

Catch me if you can: Frankel ridden by Tom Queally wins the Lockinge Stakes

Catch me if you can: Frankel ridden by Tom Queally wins the Lockinge Stakes

Frankel and The Brigadier have also been successful in the Lockinge, Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

But whereas Frankel victories range from seven furlongs to a mile, Brigadier Gerard won at five furlongs, took in two Champion Stakes and an Eclipse over 10 furlongs and his stamina was eked out to land the 1972 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes over Ascot’s mile and a half.

That is why the International Stakes
is, arguably, the most significant race in Frankel’s career since he
blasted his way up Newmarket’s Rowley Mile in the 2,000 Guineas.

We’ve
been reminded in six races since of his brilliance and Usain Bolt-like
acceleration. But a victory at a longer distance would add significant
lustre to a glittering record.

In front: Brigadier Gerard (left) ridden by Joe Mercer wins the King George VI

In front: Brigadier Gerard (left) ridden by Joe Mercer wins the King George VI

That opportunity comes in the one race that eluded Brigadier Gerard 40 years ago.

In 1972 the three-length defeat by Vincent O’Brien’s Derby winner Roberto, brilliantly ridden from the front by South American jockey Braulio Baeza in the inaugural running of a race then known as the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup, silenced the Knavesmire crowd.

Mercer is adamant that the real Brigadier, who started 1-3 favourite, did not turn up that day, despite Roberto breaking the course record.

‘Everything to look at was perfect and his work was as good as ever but the stable was under a very big cloud,’ he recalled. ‘Two and a half out, he was hacking behind them, but he never picked up and I accepted it half a furlong out. I wasn’t going to knock the c**p out of him.

‘I wasn’t concerned about the crowd
reaction — it’s not in your mind, just in your heart, and that felt
horrible. Dick Hern’s face was just blank.

‘When
he came back after the race dear old Buster Haslam, who was our
travelling head man, said, “Don’t let him put his head down, keep it
up”.

Brigadier Gerard and Frankel comparison

‘They let him after he had left the winner’s enclosure and the mucus just ran out of him. You could have filled a bucket. But he came back and won both his races afterwards.’

Mercer sees little prospect of Frankel’s exalted status being dented at York.

‘I’ve been to see Frankel run and seen his development. He’s some racehorse, no doubt about it. I’d love to ride him. I’d give my right leg to do it. I bet Lester Piggott would say the same.

‘He’ll stay a mile and a quarter on a flat, galloping track like York, but he’ll never race over a mile and a half.’

The unspoken words to finish the sentence are, of course, like the Big Fella.

‘No-one can ever beat The Brigadier in my heart and we can’t have a re-match,’ Mercer smiles.

That’s one race Smokin’ Joe could never imagine losing. It would be some match-up, though.