Miami heat: Gruelling regime at US base as Murray hones game for fresh assault on majors
00:33 GMT, 14 December 2012
As a restless soul desperate to win the first Grand Slam he always looked destined for, Andy Murray would pound the beaches of Miami on Christmas morning in the attempt to gain an edge over his rivals.
The US Open trophy is now in the cabinet and the questions of when and if have stopped, but the 25-year-old Scot is still leaving his footprints in the sand and taking the hard path to further glory.
Around breakfast time on Thursday the mercury was nudging 80 and Murray was out there again, beginning another session that is necessary to build the platform from which he will try to replicate the achievements of 2012.
At least he now knows the agony that he puts his body through, the lung-busting repeat 400-metre runs and torturous sequences of upwards movement on a gadget called the VersaClimber, have given him the ultimate benefit of winning a major.
Sandy Murray: Mike Dickson (left) on the beach with Andy
He also knows that his victories at the Olympics and in New York are unlikely to win him this weekend’s Sports Personality Of The Year award, not when up against the magnetic character of Bradley Wiggins and his unprecedented triumph at the Tour de France.
Yet, as we were able to see first hand, nobody other than Murray on the glittering shortlist has to combine speed, power and physical endurance with the kind of technical finesse that is required to land a dropshot over the net like a falling snowflake.
Even those of us who are somewhat aerobically challenged could understand the torture of his repeat 400m shuttles on soft sand, marked out between beach huts.
Murray does each 400m shuttle in around one minute and 15 seconds (I take somewhat longer), and he then has the same time to rest before doing it again, 10 times.
On the track he can do the same distance in 53 seconds, the time it took Mo Farah to do his last Olympic lap, although as Murray drily observes, Farah has already done 4,600 metres by that point. Scientific analysis shows that at maximum speed when sprinting for a ball, he covers the court at more than 10 metres per second.
Small wonder that his trainer/ torturer-in-chief Jez Green reflected: ‘He is just a superb all-round athlete, genetically blessed and underpinning it with an incredible work ethic.’
Easing off: Murray lets Mike have a breather before relaxing in the Florida sun (below)
Murray is so determined not to compromise his annual month-long boot camp in his second home of South Florida, prior to flying home briefly for Christmas and heading out to Australia via the Middle East, that he has sent his apologies to SPOTY.
That is one reason why he yesterday opened up his camp — which coach Ivan Lendl is a wisecracking part of, in contrast to his stony player-box demeanour — and reflected on his breakthrough year with unusual candour.
Wherever he comes on Sunday there have been more profound rewards, such as a boost to his sometimes wavering self-esteem, and the deep satisfaction that his home town of Dunblane is now known for more than just the terrible massacre he himself survived as a child.
The fear of being recognised in the street, or occasionally abused, has dissipated. ‘Since the Olympics I just feel a bit better about myself. I find it easier to walk around with my head up, whereas before I was always head down, not wanting anyone to see me or say anything,’ Murray said.
‘Maybe I felt that having lost in Grand Slam finals I was letting whoever it was down. I know I had been reminded every day for the last six years that it’s this long since someone from our country won a Slam. So there was part of me probably that felt a little bit of responsibility. It’s nice not to have worry about that any more and see what else I can achieve.’
Emotional scenes: Murray's return to Dunblane was attended by locals in their thousands as the Scottish town's favourite son added a US Open crown (below) to Olympic gold in a remarkable year
It is clear that a true highlight of 2012 was his post-US Open visit home, when 20,000 thronged Dunblane’s streets.
‘A lot of people there say that it has a much more positive image now and it has been great to do something for them.
my family still live there, my grandparents do a lot for the community
and my uncle has a shop there. It was weird walking down the High
Street, when I was young it seemed so massive yet when I was walking
down it that day it seemed so little. When people mention the more
positive image it’s nice because it was a terrible thing that happened
still cannot remember much of the climax to the US Open from when he sat
down at 5-2 in the final set to the moment when, somewhat
shambolically, he was left searching for his sponsored watch in the
have asked if I still have the racket but I think I threw it into the
crowd with my shirt. The whole thing was a bit of a blur. I was
wondering what song they played in the stadium at the changeover as I
was preparing to serve it out and I’m told it was I Feel So Close by Calvin Harris.
strange thing is I bumped into him at the airport the following day and
he came up to say congratulations, I really like that song but had no
idea that it was playing just before I won.
the watch I had just started with Rado before Wimbledon and after I
lost the final there I forgot to put it on and so I got into trouble.
That’s why I went over to my box and asked where it was, they had put it
in a zipped pocket in my racket bag and I couldn’t find it.’
The catalyst: Murray's partnership with eight-time Grand Slam-winner Ivan Lendl has been a fruitful one
Lendl has been key to his success and the sometimes headstrong Murray admits that, due to the weight of his mentor’s achievements, he listens to him in a way he should have listened to other coaches in the past.
‘When we started it was much more short term — “Let’s see how the first few months of the year goes” — now we are asking what are we going to be doing in four or five years’ time. We’re very honest and open and that’s why we are planning long term.
‘After I lost in the Australian Open semis Ivan just seemed to say the right things, that’s when I knew. When I lost at Wimbledon he knew exactly what I was feeling because he has been there himself.’
Most days here Lendl supervises the technical practice, using Britain’s Jamie Baker and former US Open junior champion Oliver Golding as partners.
Green plots the on-court sprint and endurance training, using eight stations that are designed to replicate movement in rallies. They have analysed matches against Novak Djokovic and seen that many points can last between 60 and 70 seconds, so the idea is that Murray can physically cope with whatever the Serb throws at him.
Of course pre-season is hardly party time either for the likes of Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who is on the comeback trail. That is why Murray needs to remain a restless soul, and why he has to keep on running.